Yun Yi's Stuff

Susannah York And George Scott – The Best Jane and Rochester

Posted on: January 18, 2015

To me (or to most Chinese people who were educated in 70s or 80s), the film adaption of Jane Eyre means only one: the one made in 1970, stars Susannah York and George Scott. It is the only one I watched, remembered and cherish since my teenage years.

The movie was relatively short, probably too short comparing with original, that’s why I was disappointed the first time when I watched it. However, something dragged me back to theater, and after several times re-watching it, I had to admit, the power of the movie was almost equal to the book.

Of course, not really. Nothing could compare, or even get close to Charlotte Bronte’s original masterpiece. The passion released by her words cannot be righteously expressed in any other forms. However, cinematic performance has different means to influence its audiences: music, scenery, and lively performance. Yes, the last one might be the most important, for if we agree that this film version really is the best, we probably owe it the most to Susannah York and George Scott.

It is true that they both appear to be much older than the ages of characters in original book, but it seems to me, physical ages do not matter so much in this timeless tale. Further more, I even think that the older physical/biological ages can do better justice to the mental ages of original characters, for both of their personalities display great complication: maturity, intelligence, sternness and many other more which I cannot find words to describe at this moment. I especially like Susannah York’s Jane, who is plain but graceful, obedient but self-respectful, passionate yet self restrained, a perfect Jane Eyre!

My second favorite screen adaptation of Jane Eyre is BBC TV series in 2006, stars Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens. I don’t quite like Stephens’ Rochester (he just lacks that noble appearance and profoundness of Rochester), but Wilson’s Jane is definitely my second favorite. Wilson did a superb job on acting in this show, and the only thing I think that she did not surpass Susannah York is her lack of the inner calmness (which is the first quality Jane impresses Rochester) and ascetic appearance. I found Wilson is a bit too physically healthy and sexy to real Jane, who has been in an abusive institution for 8 years.

The film version of 1970 was released in England as film, in US as TV movie. I was lucky to watch it in theaters back in China. I watched it 6 times back then. As if it’s not enough, recently, after over 30 years later, I again spent $3 purchased a streaming version from Amazon, watched (most part of) it, and felt overwhelmed once more. I also briefly watched several other versions, and now I had to admit this one is my favorite. Though many others might be more truthful on following original’s story line, but this film, with York and Scott’s superb performance, reflects the true spirit of the original the most.

Oh, The soundtrack is just as timeless! Whenever I drift back to Thornfield, this music is with me!

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