Thursday, March 22, 2012

after the fire: a contrast

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Aheeeeeeeeemkdfjlskfjoiefjksfjlajflaj;lidjfijfwoj!!!!!!! For those of you unfamiliar with my secret language, that's code for "It's time for (yet another) one of my favorite scenes of all time!" There is a special place in my pantaloons heart for the brooding enigma that is Mr. Rochester in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. And while I had been intrigued with him since his unforgettable introduction, it was really this scene that drop-kicked my FEELINGS into you're-going-to-compare-all-your-blind-dates-to-this-man-(and-therefore-be-unsatisfied)-from-here-on-out oblivion. And while- tsk, tsk- I watched four versions before ever picking up the book (I know alright?!), let's start with an excerpt from Chapter 15. Jane has just saved Mr. Rochester after finding his bed on fire (ohhh the delicious irony) in the middle of the night, he leaves the room for the second story, then returns...
"Good-night, then, sir," said I, departing.
He seemed surprised- very inconsistently so, as he had just told me to go.
"What!" he exclaimed, "are you quitting me already, and in that way?"
"You said I might go, sir."
"But not without taking leave; not without a word or two of acknowledgement and goodwill: not, in short, in that brief dry fashion. Why, you have saved my life- snatched me from a horrible and excruciating death! and you walk past me as if we were mutual strangers! At least shake hands."
 He held out his hand; I gave him mine: he took it first in one, then in both his own.
"You have saved my life: I have a pleasure of owing you so immense a debt. I cannot say more. Nothing else that has being would have been tolerable to me in the character of creditor for such an obligation: but you: it is different- I feel your benefit no burden, Jane."
He paused; gazed at me: words almost visible trembled on his lips- but his voice was checked.
"I knew," he continued, "you would do me good in some way, at some time: I saw it in your eyes when I first beheld you: their expression and smile did not"- (again he stopped)- "did not" (he proceeded hastily) "strike delight to my very inmost heart so for nothing. People talk of natural sympathies; I have heard of good genii: there are grains of truth in the wildest fable. My cherished preserver, good-night!"
Strange energy was in his voice, strange fire in his look. 
"I am glad I happened to be awake," I said: and then I was going.
"What! you will go?" 
"I am cold, sir."
"Cold? Yes- and standing in a pool! Go, then, Jane; go!" But he still retained my hand and I could not free it. I bethought myself of an expedient.
"I think I hear Mrs. Fairfax move, sir," said I.
"Well, leave me": he relaxed his fingers, and I was gone. 
Eeeeeeeaaaaaaahhhhhhhhdlfjsljal!!!!! Phew! This. is. spicy. Now let us turn to my two favorite adaptations, the 2006 miniseries and the 2011 film.

Now. Everyone seems to have a strong opinion about Jane Eyre because it just gives everybody a lot of FEELINGS. Especially my co-authors. Please don't forget, no matter what I say, I L-O-V-E both versions. I'm talking to you, Sarah. Please don't lock me away in the attic (even if I am a nutcase)!Anyway, let's start with the 2006 miniseries. I know Toby Stephens' night attire might be a tad distracting, but remember, dear readers, we're focusing on the moments after the bed inferno i.e. right around the 1 minute mark.
  • Maybe this is being nit-picky, but the book says he left her in total darkness. Seems to me there's a crackling fire in there. Things like this just irk me... Was it really that hard to stay true to the cannon? Still. I can get over it. 
  • Because... you know... it's unladylike to point these things out (again), but... ZOMG TOBY STEPHENS YOUR SHIRT IS UNBUTTONED.
  • The way he saunters over to her to shake hands... *smelling salts*
  • Why is she silent the whole time? Jane is supposed to be his equal and likeness and yet she's meek as a mouse here. Come on, Ruth Wilson, speak up! Speak up!
  • He takes both hands in hers, but... To me, this is such a big moment in the book. BECAUSE I'M OBSESSED WITH PROXIMITY. And it's one of the few physical descriptions we're given in the scene. So give me a close up, dang it! Make the tension last a little longer, why don't you?!
  • If I'm not mistaken, Rochester is meant to be checking himself as he speaks. He's overcome. But the speech here is a tad too warm and easy-breezy to make that come across. 
  • I love how Ruth Wilson is just mesmerized by him. The silence between them speaks volumes. If there's one thing Jane and Rochester have, it's chemistry, and Ruth and Toby's is sizzling!
  • Dear Toby Stephens, you are welcome to wrap a blanket around me and stand inches from my face any day. As in today. And tomorrow. And every tomorrow after that. This moment is fantastic. It's not in the book, but I think it captures Rochester's unpredictability quite nicely.
  • "Well, if you must leave me... you must." I. DIE.
Whenever you come to on your fainting couch, here's the 2011 version:
  • Let's focus on what's really important... our good King Michael Fassbender is playing Mr. Rochester; one of our all time favorite men playing one of our all time leading men! It's too good to be true! Have I died and gone to heaven?!?!
  • Eaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!! When he takes her hand in both of his!!! *SWOON* This is what I'm talking about!!! Ahem... you know how I feel about PROXIMITY and I genuinely appreciate how they focus on this moment. I really do. Because it's a really big deal, ok?!
Sorry I'm not sorry! But a close-up is necessary for this one! (x)
  • AND OMGEEZIES LOOK AT FASSY'S HAAAAAAAANDS! I wanna hold your hand. Or rather, have you take mine in both of yours and then pull me towards you like you do in this scene. It's just... the best thing... I could ever imagine... Except... that it's better than even my wildest dreams! He just can't resist! *lands face first into daydreaming fit*
  • Popped collar. That's what I'm talking about, Victorian Swag!!!
  • The room is gloomy just as it should be. Nice.
  • She speaks! Kudos. Goodness knows I'd be mute under that intense gaze. Mia Wasikowska is so subtle yet incredibly convincing. To me, anyway, she is Jane Eyre!
  • The script here is whittled down, but fits perfectly. I love the choices they made where the dialogue is concerned. Especially since they used a modified version of my favorite line in the entire scene i.e. "their expression did not strike my inmost being so for nothing." UGH! Are you joking?! That line is FLAWLESS.
  • Especially coming out of Michael Fassbender's mouth. I'm sorry, but I have to say it! He's one of my top three favorite voices for a reason! And need I point out how my petticoat disintegrates when he says, "I have a pleasure in owing you my life." Come on. I know I'm not alone here. "People talk of natural sympathies..." Where is my fainting couch?!
  • So I'm scraping the barrel here trying to find a flaw, but the only thing is that in comparison to the book, he speaks effortlessly (just like the other version). But to hell with it! I don't even care!!! 
  • The PROXIMITY! The MAGNETISM! Yes, yes, YES! This is perfect, I tell you, PERFECT! Spot on. Ok. Maybe some people think the almost kiss is a bit much, but the original text certainly leaves a lot to the imagination. I'm going with it and I like it, y'all, I LOVE IT!!!
  • "You will leave me then?" DEAD.
  • Flawless scene is flawless.
As you can see, I have a bias towards the 2011 version of the 2006 version. While I originally scoffed at the idea of a Rochester better than Toby Stephens or a Jane I liked more than Ruth Wilson, I love Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska even more. But we're here to talk about the scene, not everything else! Personally, I think the look and tone of the 2011 version is more appropriate. It's exactly what I picture when I read the book. In this moment, etiquette falls to the wayside and the tension is palpable. Despite the almost kiss in this one *smelling salts*, the 2006 version somehow seems more in your face about the attraction between them and Toby Stephens comes across so warm that the scene loses the mystery I associate with Rochester. Still. I love both!

Of course, there are over 25 cinematic adaptations of Jane Eyre. So, if you'd like to see some different takes on this scene, I suggest the 1983 version, which shows a Rochester who actually has difficulty expressing himself. And here's the robotic chemistry-less 1996 version, which I have never been able to get through, have nightmares over, and would like to burn at the stake. So many versions, so little time! So, dear readers, who do you think did the best job with this scene?


  1. I must admit. I still LOVE the 2006 version. Obvs, the Fassy version is my favorite, but I'm convinced that Toby brings some meltiness to Mr. Rochester as well.

  2. Heeheee!! This post made me laugh so much. "Where's my fainting couch?!" I'm still giggling.