In their pioneering work of feminist criticism The Madwoman in the Attic (1979), Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar wrote that Bertha Rochester represented Jane Eyre’s “encounter… with her own imprisoned hunger, rebellion and rage.” Bertha, they argued, is “the ferocious secret self” which Jane has been trying to repress since the abuse she suffered as a child. Jane is fearful of marriage and the loss of freedom it will bring; Bertha tramples on the wedding veil. Jane harbors hostility toward a patriarchal system which makes the equality she desires impossible; Bertha tries to kill Rochester and eventually burns down Thornfield. Jane is the “elf”; Bertha is the “goblin.” They are physical and temperamental opposites, yet two facets of the same personality, the two brides of Rochester.
Even if it doesn’t account for all the novel’s complexities, there is much truth in this reading. As a model for Rochester, Brontë explicitly invokes Bluebeard, the man who murders his wives and locks away their corpses. Bertha reverses this plot. In Bertha’s tale, the undead wife, the “Vampyre” who has been suppressed and confined too long, emerges to take her terrible revenge. But we need to consider Bertha’s madness on the practical as well as the symbolic level. Readers of Jane Eyre often speak of the “creep factor” in the book, something Brontë herself acknowledged with the Bluebeard comparison. Can Rochester’s conduct toward Bertha be justified? And what of Brontë’s own demonization of Bertha, a woman suffering from mental illness, as a physical and moral monster?
We will examine these questions this week and in Post 16, “The Leavetaking.”
On the morning of Jane’s wedding, Sophie takes such a long time dressing her that Rochester sends to ask why she is not ready. Jane is anxious to leave, but Sophie insists that she look at herself in the mirror.
When Jane learned that Rochester was romancing Blanche Ingram, she looked in the mirror and pronounced herself poor and plain. After he proposed, she consulted the mirror again and found that she was “no longer plain.” Now, on her way to the altar, Jane looks in the mirror… and cannot recognize herself.
Rochester is in such a hurry that he gives Jane only minutes for breakfast. He orders the carriage ready and luggage stowed, in order to leave the moment the ceremony is complete. Mrs. Fairfax sees them off, but Jane is unable to speak with her:
At the churchyard, Rochester finally realizes how he has been dragging Jane along. He permits her to rest and they stop for a moment to gaze at the old structure. Jane notices two strangers passing to the back of the church. As Jane and Rochester enter, the strangers stand facing away, examining a tomb:
The battle of Marston Moor (1644), fought west of the city of York, was decisive in the English Civil War. The Royalists, including Rochester’s ancestor, lost some 4,000 men and were forced to yield the north to the Parliamentarians. The given name “Damer” is unusual, but it is known as an English surname; “de Rochester” retains the French style, suggesting a noble family of great antiquity.
Jane and Rochester advance toward the parson in his white surplice, who begins the service, charging the bride and groom to confess any impediments to their marriage. As he is about to continue with the vows, there is an interruption.
Profound silence falls at this command, but at last the priest declares that he cannot proceed without investigation. The voice insists that the impediment is “insuperable.”
The stranger explains that Rochester has a wife living. Jane feels the “subtle violence” of these words in her nerves and blood, but is in no danger of swooning:
Rochester interrogates the stranger, who turns out to be a solicitor named Briggs. Challenged to provide proof of his claim, Briggs reads an affidavit by Richard Mason to the effect that Rochester was married in Spanishtown, Jamaica to Bertha Antoinetta Mason, daughter of Jonas Mason and his wife Antoinetta, a Creole. Mason himself then steps forward, and Rochester can barely restrain himself.
When Mason claims that Mrs. Rochester is resident at Thornfield, the clergyman is incredulous:
Rochester holds counsel with himself for some minutes, then tells Mr. Wood, the clergyman, to close his book and the clerk to leave the church: “There will be no wedding today.” He declares that he is guilty of plotting bigamy, and bitterly reveals his long-held secret:
Rochester invites Briggs, Mason and Wood to his house to see his wife, Mrs. Poole’s patient, pausing only to make clear that Jane knew nothing of the secret:
Rochester angrily dismisses the coachman waiting at the church door, and when they reach Thornfield, he shouts at Mrs. Fairfax, Sophie and Adèle: “Away with your congratulations! They are fifteen years too late!” Still holding Jane’s hand, he climbs the stairs to the third story chamber where Mrs. Poole receives the party.
Jane Eyre has been much-criticized for failing to give us any insight into Bertha’s point of view. Indeed, Jane describes Bertha in a way that dehumanizes her; she is an animal or a monster. In hindsight, Brontë herself recognized this flaw. She wrote that Bertha suffered from a kind of madness which rendered her vicious, what today we might call “criminally insane,” and had led “a sinful life” even before her madness, yet she still deserved compassion:
“It is true that profound pity ought to be the only sentiment elicited by the view of such degradation, and equally true is it that I have not sufficiently dwelt on that feeling; I have erred in making horror too predominant.” (-Letter from Charlotte Brontë to her publisher, 1848)
When the figure, a “clothed hyena,” sees Rochester, she gets to her feet and bellows. Jane notes, “I recognized well that purple face, those bloated features.” Grace warns that Bertha is about to attack, and she does:
Rochester is careful not to strike Bertha, but gradually wrestles her into a chair, to which he ties her as she screams.
Rochester dismisses the party, saying bitterly that he must “shut up his prize”; the solicitor tells Jane that her uncle in Madeira will be relieved to hear of her rescue from the false marriage. Jane’s letter announcing her wedding plans had reached Mr. Eyre when his acquaintance, Mr. Mason, was passing through Madeira on his way back to Jamaica. John Eyre was too ill to make the trip himself, but he had urged Mason to return in order to prevent the marriage.
Astonishingly, it was Jane herself who set in motion the chain of events that stopped the wedding, by writing to her long-lost uncle. Recall that when she took this action, the uppermost thought in her mind was independence; she hoped that were she to inherit some money of her own from Mr. Eyre, she would be in a better position to stand up to Rochester once they were married.
Jane ponders her situation. She has not been physically maimed, and yet the Jane Eyre of yesterday has been transformed to “a cold solitary girl,” one desolate and hopeless. Worst of all, in her despair she cannot turn to Rochester. The feeling which he had created lies “like a suffering child in a cold cradle”:
Jane blames herself for blindness and weak conduct, believing that Rochester must not have truly cared for her; now that his fitful passion has been thwarted, she presumes that he will speedily dismiss her. She lies half-fainting, longing to be dead. She tries to pray: “Be not far from me, for trouble is near: there is none to help.” But she has no energy to express the words.
Jane’s unuttered prayer comes from Psalm 22 (line 11). Not coincidentally, this is the Psalm Jesus quoted when he hung on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The lyrics go on to express utter despair and hopelessness, yet they also recognize that ultimate power lies with God. The quotation from Jane-as-narrator, attempting to describe the experience in retrospect, comes from another Psalm (69) in which the singer feels he is drowning in shame and mortification, and calls on God for aid.
Because the film versions tend to whitewash Rochester and minimize his character flaws, his secret doesn’t add up. In the book, the reader knows almost from the moment Jane arrives at Thornfield that a secret of some kind exists, and that Rochester is a complex and ruthless man with a narcissistic streak. Rochester’s charismatic personality lulls us (like Jane) into forgetfulness, but when disaster strikes, we recognize that we have expected something like it all along. The films, on the other hand, often struggle to excuse or erase Rochester’s bad behavior and reconcile him with Hollywood notions of the romantic hero. But 1943 (and in a different way, 2011) both allow Rochester’s guilty secret to speak for itself.
Priest: “I require and charge ye both, as ye will answer at the dreadful day of judgment, when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed, that if either of you know of any impediment, why you may not lawfully be joined in matrimony, ye do now confess it.”
Priest: “For be ye well assured that so many as are coupled together otherwise than God’s Word doth allow, are not joined together by God, neither is their matrimony lawful… Edward Rochester, wilt thou have this woman to be thy wedded wife?”
Like the novel, 1943 takes the time to repeat the exact words of the divine service which require prospective marriage partners to reveal any known barriers to their union. Rochester’s failure to respond highlights his defiant intention to proceed with a marriage he knows is against God’s law.
Stranger: “My name is Briggs; I am an attorney. Mr. Mason!” (Mason shows himself.) “On the twentieth of October 1824, Edward Rochester of Thornfield Hall was married to Bertha Mason at St. Mary’s church, Spanishtown, Jamaica. The record of the marriage will be found in the register of that church.”
Rochester’s extended conflict with Briggs and Mason, his near-violence against Mason, his self-justifying words, and his exculpation of Jane are all omitted. Here, he gives in a little too quickly, and we don’t have time to register the set teeth, the stonelike face, and the difficulty Rochester has in accepting that the other men have the power to veto his commands and thwart his will. Interestingly, Welles-as-Rochester makes no move to touch Jane, whereas the literary Rochester places his arm about her waist and “rivets” her to his side.
Rochester turns and stalks off, leaving the others to follow.
In the book, Rochester does not abandon Jane to a solo walk of shame, but dismisses the carriage and holds her hand all the miserable way back to Thornfield, and up the stairs to the third story, as if unwilling to let her escape.
Rochester: “That, gentlemen, is my wife. Mad, and the offspring of a mad family, to whom the church and law would bind me forever, without hope of divorce.”
At three minutes, this is a masterful adaptation, condensing a full chapter to its bare essentials. Rochester sets forth his case succinctly, but at the core is his conviction that he was cheated into marrying Bertha and that she is his “wife” only in a superficial sense which he refuses to accept. Implicitly, the scene shows that the other men may pity him, but his attempt to lure Jane into an invalid marriage cannot be excused.
Rochester’s allusion to English divorce law is transferred from the next chapter, but it is pertinent for viewers to know that this is not an option. Divorces were still very difficult to obtain in the 1820s and 30s; each divorce required an act of Parliament as well as a decision by an ecclesiastical court, and the insanity of a spouse was not considered sufficient grounds, as it would be later. In the next chapter, we learn that Bertha had been an adulteress; this was grounds for divorce, but Rochester would have had to publicly accuse one of her lovers and (somehow) bring him to trial from Jamaica. Few men, even among the wealthy, went to such great expense to proclaim to the world that they were cuckolds.
Like the book, 1943 refuses to permit Bertha a human dimension. We never see her face, and thus she remains monstrous. She attacks Rochester like a wild beast, only to be chained and shut up in a dark hole (even the literary Bertha was not treated so brutally). Still, the film manages to comment subtly on the horror of her fate, for the camera watches from somewhere behind Bertha. When he closes the door on her, the audience experiences her dungeon-like confinement, if only for a fleeting moment.
1970 spends more time on the scene, almost five minutes. It opens with Mason’s arrival in a carriage.
Cut to Jane and Rochester at the altar.
Parson: “And wilt thou, Jane Eyre, have this man for thy lawful wedded husband?”
(A noise in the back of the church.) Mason, offscreen: “The marriage must be stopped! I declare the existence of an impediment!”
Rochester to the parson, coolly: “Go on.”
Parson: “Impossible. I would know of it.”
Mason: “I’m sorry Rochester, but it is not right!”
I’m not sure why Rochester is made to drive Jane back in the carriage, since the others could hardly arrive at the same time. This is the second time Scott-as-Rochester drives (the first time was when he took Mason to the doctor; also a departure from the book). I suspect that the director wanted to show off his lead actor’s skill with horses. Visually, it’s interesting and has a strange “runaway bride” feel.
Rochester (turning away from Bertha): “And how are we today, Mrs. Poole?”
Grace Poole: “We’re tolerable today, thank you sir. Snappish but not outrageous.”
Rochester: “Bertha Mason Rochester, mad through three generations (although I in my naiveté was never told), who even tried to murder me on our wedding night. Look at her, Jane, look at her.”
1970 tries to correct the book by introducing a more contemporary understanding of mental illness. The reaction against 1943 is also clear: instead of the monster whose face we never see, Bertha is a beautiful woman, with an unexpected dignity. Rochester does not struggle against her or tie her to a chair. Instead he lies on the floor with her, allowing her to stroke his face. The scene is a sad parody of a “conjugal embrace,” but it reveals very clearly that whatever Rochester might say to the contrary, Bertha is his wife. Jean Marsh (best known as “Rose” in Upstairs, Downstairs) is extraordinary in this small role.
Rochester’s statement “I loved her once, as I love you now” is a surprise, for in the book, he declares that he never loved Bertha, though he initially found her alluring. Here, I suppose it is part of the screenwriter’s effort to humanize Bertha: only her illness sets her apart from Jane. But Brontë’s tale is more complex.
This version also inaugurates the most common defense of Rochester’s behavior in locking his wife in the attic: she was a danger to herself and others, yet he could not commit her to an asylum, for she would have been ill-treated. If, as I have suggested, the book is set during the reign of King George III, this is quite true; the horrors of “Bedlam,” where the filthy inmates were beaten and displayed to gawkers for money, are well-known. By the time Jane Eyre was written in the 1830s, the treatment of the insane was undergoing much-needed reforms, yet home care likely would have been a preferable option for those who could afford it.
But questions remain. Why did Rochester employ only a single, habitually drunken woman to care for Bertha? Why was Bertha never allowed out of her chamber for exercise? Why did Mrs. Fairfax not know her identity? Bertha’s life of confinement was not due to her violent behavior alone, but also the result of the decision to keep her lunacy (and the marriage itself) a secret. Rochester more than once emphasizes how hard he worked to avoid exposure, long before Jane’s arrival on the scene. Simply put, he placed his own need to deny the marriage above the best interests of his wife. Of course the secrecy was a necessary plot device for Brontë’s story, but it also leaves us no way to fully excuse Rochester’s treatment of Bertha.
1996 follows a strategy similar to 1970, but with a few twists and a fuller treatment (about six and a half minutes).
1996 conflates two mirror scenes. After Rochester proposed marriage, Jane awoke the next morning and liked what she saw in the mirror. When dressed in her wedding finery, however, Jane saw herself as a stranger; her beauty or lack of it was not the issue.
Rochester: “Have you been to the church?”
Footman: “Yes sir, the parson’s just arrived.”
“The horses have all been harnessed.”
“I want to leave the moment the ceremony’s over.”
“Jane!” (He runs up to the next landing.)
1996 serves up a hefty helping of traditional wedding romance. In the book, the atmosphere is much more tense: Rochester pronounces Jane “fair as a lily, the pride of his life and the desire of his eyes.” Then he drops the chivalry and gives her ten minutes to eat breakfast.
In the novel, Jane wears a white wedding dress and veil. White had been a popular color for wedding dresses in the previous centuries, not because it symbolized virginity but because it displayed wealth. If you could afford to buy voluminous yards of such an impractical color, for a dress you might wear only once, you must be financially secure. The trend really took off in 1840 when the young Queen Victoria chose white for her own wedding.
All the more recent costume designers seem determined to put Jane in an ugly 1840s “coal scuttle” bonnet as part of her wedding ensemble (1996, 1997, 2011). But Victoria did not wear such a bonnet, only a lovely chaplet of flowers. To me, the prettiest wedding dress of our five is the one worn by Joan Fontaine in 1943 (with a huge lace veil like Victoria’s), and the least-attractive is Samantha Morton’s plain and sober ensemble in 1997.
Parson: “I cannot. What… what is the nature of this impediment?”
Stranger: “Mr. Rochester is a married man.”
William Hurt is very good in this scene. He’s usually so calm and lacking in Rochesterian danger and sexual charisma that I was delighted when he finally got red-hot under the collar. He looks like he’s about to throw himself on Briggs and administer a good thrashing.
“My name is Briggs; I am a lawyer. I was engaged to look after the interests of your wife.”
“There is no wife.”
Briggs, (reading): “I affirm and can prove that on the twentieth day of October, 1829, Edward Fairfax Rochester of Thornfield Hall was married to my sister, Bertha Antoinetta. A copy of the wedding certificate is now in my possession. Signed, Richard Mason.”
“That may prove that I have been married. It does not prove that the woman is still living.”
Briggs: “Have the goodness to step forward, sir.”
1996 follows 1943 in having Rochester abandon Jane at the altar and storm out of the church.
As they enter the chamber, Grace Poole rushes to shut the door but Rochester stops her: “Stay out of the way, Grace.”
Like 1970, 1996 shows us a human Bertha, an attractive woman rather than the swollen faced “hyena” of the novel. This seems like an appropriate accommodation to modern understandings of mental illness, though Bertha is not as frightening as in the book. The key change is that Bertha attacks not Rochester, the object of her hatred in the book, but Jane. The confrontation between Bertha and Jane has dramatic value and is visually effective, but there’s little in the book to suggest that Bertha’s main concern was Jane. Indeed, she had a perfect opportunity to harm Jane on the penultimate night before the wedding, and did not. Her hostility was directed against the veil, the symbol of her confinement. (Still, in the final conflagration, she did set fire to Jane’s bedchamber.)
The pathos of Bertha’s condition in this version (together with the weak screenplay) has the effect of making Rochester look ignoble (rather than tragic) and sound rather self-pitying. 1970 plays much better: Scott’s Rochester is bitterly ironic, yet he is not lacking in compassion for his mad wife.
1997 lavishes almost 8 minutes on this part of the story, and takes 1970 as its model, especially in the wedding scene.
In the book, Mrs. Fairfax doesn’t even get to say goodbye as Jane is leaving for the church, and the emotional tie between her and Jane is not emphasized as much as it is here. But Gemma Jones turns in a marvelous performance as Mrs. Fairfax, who knows that something is amiss, yet is powerless to help.
Jane: “Thank you. I will make him happy.” (The church bell rings, and Jane smiles as they leave.)
1997 gives the charge to confess impediments twice (once for witnesses and once for the couple), hammering home the implication that Rochester is concealing something.
Parson: Wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife?
In the book, the parson is preparing to administer the vow to Rochester (but does not actually voice it) when the intrusion occurs. Both 1970 and 1997 allow Rochester to make the vow. The portion of the vow we hear in 1997 is significant. From the church’s perspective, he is sinning by breaking his promise to his first wife. From Rochester’s perspective, he is swearing his fidelity to Jane and securing his salvation.
The ring is placed on the prayerbook as the horseman leaps a fence and arrives at the church door.
Rochester (savagely, to the parson): “Proceed!”
Mason: “Mr. Rochester is already married!”
Rochester (yelling): “The man’s an imbecile; carry on!”
Parson: “I’m obliged to listen to the accusation.”
Mason: “I have the wedding certificate here, of Edward Rochester of Thornfield Hall, and my sister, Bertha Antoinetta Mason of Spanishtown, Jamaica.”
Parson: “And is she still living?”
Mason: “Yes! I saw her with my own eyes not three months ago.”
Ciarán Hinds is not the Man of Granite we read of in the novel’s wedding scene, but desperate and raging. The scene correctly conveys his absolute contempt of Mason, but in the book he is much cooler, even as he fights a strong temptation to strike his brother-in-law.
Mason: “I tell you, he has a wife!”
They climb the stairs. Grace Poole is surprised while drinking.
Rochester: “Grace, open the door.”
Grace: “Are you sure, sir?”
Rochester: “OPEN the DOOR!”
Grace: “For God’s sake, take care, sir!”
Rochester: “How are you feeling?”
To my mind, 1997 achieves the best compromise with the text of the original. Without making Bertha hideous, it allows her to be a little bit scary, and to be physically heavy and strong, as she is in the book. Without making her a monster, it shows that her illness has destroyed her sense of social norms, and it accurately shows how psychosis causes people to behave in ways we would rather not acknowledge, ways that cause shame and embarrassment in us when we see them. At the same time, it treats Bertha as a human being, deserving of compassion. It does not overreact to the book by making Bertha young and beautiful (in the novel, she is older than Rochester by a few years, so certainly in her 40s).
Parson: “But you must have known you couldn’t marry Miss Eyre, when you were already married. It would have been a crime; you would have been committing bigamy, sir.”
He goes to kneel by Bertha, who is still lying on the floor.
After a moment Jane and Mrs. Fairfax leave, then Mason, and finally the parson.
Like 1970, this version makes Rochester compassionate enough not to deny Bertha a human touch, and that display of intimacy drives home to the onlookers the fact that she is indeed his wife. In the novel, Rochester can barely stand to look at Bertha, much less touch her. Simply put, he hates her and she him. Except for 1943, the movie versions refuse to show Rochester’s complete rejection of Bertha, because it seems to be a character flaw. The true sources of Rochester’s hatred have nothing to do with her madness, but these are not explored.
Ciarán Hinds’ hot-tempered portrayal of Rochester works better here than in the wedding scene. He’s able to communicate the complex brew of passions churning in Rochester’s soul: not just fury at his betrayal by the Masons, but also grief and desperation at the lack of a cure, and an overwhelming need to be with Jane. In much of this scene, he is near tears, and together with Sophie Reissner’s realistic performance as Bertha, it is very moving.
The 1997 screenplay tries much harder than the book to show that Rochester is a compassionate husband who did all he could for his ailing wife and treated her kindly. Of his sinister obsession with secrecy, nothing is said.
Meanwhile, Jane stumbles into the hallway, tearing off her bonnet and veil. Mrs. Fairfax is sobbing and embracing her.
2011 gives us a brief, spare presentation (slightly over four minutes). Recall that in this version, we have seen nothing of Grace Poole. The only hints of Bertha’s existence have been the fire and Mason’s wound, which simply lacked explanation. So the revelation comes as much more of a surprise than in the other versions. We begin with Jane’s gown and lace veil:
Cut to the courtyard where Rochester is talking to the coachman, mentioning the luggage. Jane enters and Mrs. Fairfax tells her, “Take courage, Jane.” She answers that she will.
This is good visual storytelling. Barely a word has been spoken, but we see that Rochester is nervous and desperately anxious to get the ceremony over with. In the book and in the original screenplay, Rochester eventually realized that he was dragging Jane, and tenderly gave her a moment to rest, but that bit has been left out of the final cut.
Cut to the church interior.
Parson: “Edward Fairfax Rochester, do you…”
This version is extraordinary because Rochester says absolutely nothing in his own defense, either in the church or when the group views Bertha. He merely clears Jane from guilt in the crime, an important detail of the book which the other films omit. Unlike the literary Rochester, he gives in to the urge to attack Mason. What’s missing from these scenes is the literary Rochester’s sincere (if deluded) belief that his marriage is not real, his conviction that the laws of God and man do not bind him, and his insistence that love is the true standard of commitment. (In this version, Rochester’s account of his history with Bertha will come later, in private, just before Jane leaves.)
Rochester’s silence has the effect of making him seem to acknowledge his guilt, which is something the literary Rochester refuses to do.
Mrs. Poole: “You ought to give warning, sir!”
Mason: “Netta, it is I, Richard.”
Voice of Grace Poole (off camera): “She has her quiet times and her rages. The windows are shut lest she throw herself out. We have no furniture, but she can make a weapon out of anything. I take her for a turn on the roof each day, securely held, for she’s taken to thinking she can fly.”
Mrs. Poole is only glimpsed for a few moments, and the sound is engineered so that her outline of Bertha’s condition and treatment is heard as if at a distance or through a filter. It’s easy for the viewer to miss most of what Mrs. Poole says.
Bertha is cast against type as a young and beautiful woman, and as in 1996, the screenplay sets up a confrontation between her and Jane which is completely absent from the book. The scene suggests that Bertha is sexually possessive of her husband and/or wishes to defend her position as Rochester’s wife. Therefore she embraces Rochester and spits at Jane, then slaps Rochester as if to chastise him for his faithless behavior. Far from making Jane and Bertha sexual rivals for Rochester, Brontë’s account seems to go out of its way to show that Rochester finds Bertha physically repulsive.
Bertha’s fly-eating seems to be ripped off from a scene in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula (1992), where the madman Renfield (played by Tom Waits) eats flies and worms in his cell. Or perhaps we should think of it as an homage?
Cut to Jane’s room.
Overall, 2011 is a strange mix of very faithful details (like Rochester dragging Jane to the church, or clearing Jane of guilt, or roaring at the servants) and major changes to the letter and spirit (like Rochester’s attack on Mason, and the casting of Bertha).
And now it’s time for the rubric!
1943 is strong on direction and boasts a lovely wedding gown for Jane, but the church and mad scenes are a bit too stripped-down and rushed. It seems a shame after such a long build-up to the climax.
1970 is consistently good to excellent. It has a suitably rock-like Rochester and a very powerful, interesting mad scene with Jean Marsh. But it focuses on Rochester at Jane’s expense.
1996 strays by trying to capitalize on wedding sentimentality; Hurt’s performance is mixed and Gainsbourg’s is blank, but Maria Schneider is memorable as Bertha.
1997 has the best treatment of Bertha’s situation (given the difficulties of the source material) and manages to give Jane her due even as Rochester is allowed the lion’s share of the attention. Rochester is over-emotive as always, but it works in the mad scene.
2011 takes away Rochester’s voice and his impassioned defiance. Bertha is all wrong. On the other hand, much is shown from Jane’s point of view, and the script retains some original lines and faithful details.
Linnet, did you notice how much Mr. Rochester of the John H. Bacon (1897) illustration looks like Ciaran Hinds? Too bad the 1997 version did not see this illustration before filming, he could have trimmed his mutton chops.
I didn’t know before of the term “coal scuttle”, have just thought of them as bonnets. I liked the bonnets, especially the one laying out in the picture you chose from 1996. I have never been fond of a “chaplet” of flowers, probably because I’m from a generation when everyone wore them and they never looked complete, either scraggly and dying if live flowers, or silly and plastic, if not real. If more garlands were like lush and full like those in Victoria’s picture, I’d feel better about them. Too, though you interpret Samantha Morton’s look and dialog of “Is that me” that she “might almost have mistaken herself as a nun” it’s my favorite scene in the movie, and my interpretation was that she saw her own beauty for the first time and it was affirmed by Sophie. Neither of us are wrong, it’s part of what makes each of these versions interesting how we all see the same things differently. Likewise, you are quite forgiving of George C. Scott and I have promised myself to someday watch his version even though I cannot think of him beyond “Patton” and not in a good way. My only wish about the bonnets would be that they had chosen less
Here at last, we learn too how the 1997 version handled Mrs. Fairfax and whether or not she knew of Bertha or not. It tied up that plot piece for me, even though knowing Bronte did not incorporate that in her story wrecks the concept that housekeepers did not ask questions. Of course they did, human nature has not changed that much in 200 years.
Poor Bertha. I admit I never given two whit’s for poor Bertha until now, but you’ve turned me around. I did wonder at some films from the way directors had her behave toward Rochester if there wasn’t an implication that he used her sexually.
I’m realizing how naïve I have been because I also never noticed a creep factor about Rochester, was too busy being the lost child looking for the One to notice.
Anyway, again, I love the series and thank you for your writing.
Thanks Ellen! I really liked Bacon’s illustration of Rochester, and now I realize why!
I love the idea of wearing flowers, probably because nobody did it anymore by the time I got married. For some reason I’ve never been partial to the 19th century bonnets, though no doubt they were good protection against the sun. But how could they see? Those ladies clearly didn’t have to drive themselves–and maybe that was the point.
As to George C. Scott, his performance does not evoke the Rochester of the book, being too icy by far, but it is good at certain moments, like the church scene.
1970 and all the later versions raise the possibility of Rochester possibly having an ongoing sexual relationship with Bertha. It especially comes to mind in 2011 because she is so young and lovely. But it’s totally a violation of the book, where Rochester finds Bertha repellent in every way. I think Brontë herself was fairly insensitive to what she was doing by making Bertha a monster. It came back to bite her after publication because she dedicated the book to her hero Thackeray, not realizing that his wife was mad. It caused a lot of talk.
…I meant to say chosen less authentic fabric for the veils as they are too heavy for films. I was distracted by when I wrote.
The veils are mostly very lightweight and they look like modern synthetics to me, except for 1943 which looks like real lace (but is not used to cover the face).
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