Jane Eyre: Book And Screen Adaptation Comparison
Jane Eyre is one of the most important novels by Charlotte Brontë, and therefore this novel has been adapted for the screen. As the author of the article (Patsy Stoneman) says, there is more than one option to tell a story, which is why many writers and narrators are forced to make changes to their adaptations, as is the case with Zeffirelli and his film version of Jane Eyre in 1996. Zeffirelli’s adaptation, however, has various differences in contrast to the original script of the novel. The purpose of the article is to compare and contrast those differences.
First of all, the author points out that one of the main principles of her article is to find out what is the degree of faithfulness of Zeffirelli’s adaptation in accordance with the novel. Nevertheless, it is difficult to represent a novel in its whole in a film, because films are limited by their duration; this choice to cut a novel into a film may affect the original essence, as happened with what Zeffirelli was trying to convey with his adaptation.
One of the key points of being able to adapt a novel to the screen is that the scriptwriter has many more tools available than the novelist was unable to use, such as combining music and images with dialogues. These combinations can be used as substitutes for long paragraphs in the original play.
As soon as the movie starts, you can see how Zeffirelli takes advantage of Jane’s childhood in order to use his personal touches, mainly in visual effects. As it can be seen, he intensifies the use of odd camera angles in order to show a child’s perspective, in addition to realism in the portrayal of some places, e.g., Lowood, a somber setting. Nevertheless, events in the film advance faster than in the novel, as is the exact moment in the film in which Jane must stay up on a stool as a punishment by Mr. Brocklehurst as soon as Jane arrived in Lowood; in the novel, however, this situation occurred a long time after Jane’s arrival at school.
Moreover, Zeffirelli focuses on the hair of the protagonist (Jane) and Helen, since both have a long hair compared to their classmates and, in this adaptation, Helen is a red-haired person, something that was not allowed or perhaps it was hard to find it at that school at the time. Zeffirelli’s film tries to relate Jane and Helen to the hair style of some heroines and female martyrs, such as Jeanne D’Arc.
According to the screenwriter of the film, Hugh Whitemore, his original script was longer than the script shown in the film, but he said that “generally speaking cutting always makes a thing better and sharper and often more effective on the screen”. Personally, I think that Hugh Whitemore is right about it, because in most cases, when cutting is present to adapt something on the screen, parts that are not perhaps of such importance are removed and therefore the screenwriters have the opportunity to focus on more valuable and entertaining scenes shown on the screen, as long as the essence and original plot are maintained.
Furthermore, it is important to realize that there are many characters in the film who have a much higher valued role in the script of the film than in the novel, such as Helen Burns, Miss Temple and Mrs Alice Fairfax. By contrast, Bertha Rochester is barely represented in the adaptation, whereas in the novel she has more connotations about her life.
As the author stated previously, Zefirelli’s film has many cuts between scenes in order to keep the main plot of the novel. However, these cuts can affect the dialogue and sentimental connection between Jane and Rochester. In addition, Zefirelli’s film has a quick jump of scenes after the scene of the proposal in the orchard, which is a before and after in the development of the plot.
Likewise, Zeffirelli’s swift cutting affects how the failed wedding moment is portrayed and how both Jane and Rochester argue about what happened, as a result it is briefly shown in the film.
A curious difference of the Zeffirelli film in contrast to the novel is that we can see how Jane runs away from Thornfield on a coach and faints in it, while in the novel she runs away on foot and faints in the middle of nowhere, where she is rescued by St John Rivers and his sister.
Finally, at the end of the film, events at that point moves quickly until the scene where Jane and Rochester are back together, finally showing their sentimental desires.
To conclude, it seems to me that I do not agree with the article on some ideas. As I stated previously, I defend the idea of cutting scenes from a novel in order to adapt it to the screen, since without cutting scenes all the adaptations would be the same and even boring, since you do not see signs of innovation on the part of the screenwriters.