Farewell Jane Austen, Hellooooo Brontes

While I LOVE Jane Austen, both her books and their adaptations, my heart has always found into home in the works of the Bronte sisters. Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. They are my all-time favourite books. And, I know some of you will want to hunt me down, but I agree with Charlotte Bronte in a sense when she wrote: 

…she ruffles her reader by nothing vehement, disturbs him by nothing profound: the Passions are perfectly unknown to her … what throbs fast and full, though hidden, what the blood rushes through, what is the unseen seat of Life and the sentient target of death — this Miss Austen ignores… 

 I wanted to share this article with you all. Found it very interesting. And a bit…ehm…nerve wrecking. There is to be ANOTHER adaptation. I am dreading, anxious, and excited to watch it!!! Yes, I feel a host of contradicting emotions right now.   



Brooding Brontës replace Austen as ‘bonnet drama’ returns


In 1847 a pair of extraordinary novels appeared two months apart, apparently written by brothers.

Jane Eyre proved an immediate success while Wuthering Heights was sneered at as “wild, confused, disjointed and improbable”. Today both are among the classics of English literature.

Next year the stories are to go head to head once more, in cinemas, more than 160 years after Charlotte and Emily Brontë published them under the pseudonyms Currer and Ellis Bell.

The books have already inspired a number of film and television adaptations, starring the likes of Orson Welles, Sir Laurence Olivier and Juliette Binoche. Despite this, BBC Films and Film4 believe that there is room for a fresh cinematic take on the Brontës. Their rival productions promise to bring the sisters to a new generation and to revitalise the “bonnet drama”.

In the past two decades film and television audiences could not get enough of 19th-century dramas. Jane Austen, in particular, thrived, from the 1995 TV Pride and Prejudice, with a wet-shirted Colin Firth, to the Oscar-winning film of the same novel ten years later, starring Keira Knightley. Lately, audiences have dwindled, as shown by lacklustre viewing figures for the BBC’s latest Emma last year.

Alison Owen, the producer of Jane Eyre (and mother of the singer Lily Allen), said: “There is something about the current situation that the world finds itself in where the Brontës more suit the mood of the moment [than Austen]. Jane Austen is a lighter cut than the Brontës, who are much more brooding and bleak.”

BBC Films, with the American company Focus Features, is first out of the traps. Jane Eyre is five weeks into a nine-week shoot in Derbyshire. Film4’s Wuthering Heights, made with Ecosse Films, the British company behind Nowhere Boy, is scheduled to start filming in Yorkshire next month.

Both have directors who are known for gritty productions about the modern-day poor rather than costume dramas about the middle classes. Cary Fukunaga, who is directing Jane Eyre, is a 32-year-old American with Swedish and Japanese parents. His acclaimed debut Sin Nombre was a Spanish-language thriller about Mexican gang members trying to escape to the United States; quite a jump, then, to the story of an orphaned Victorian governess and her love for the mysterious owner of a great house.

Owen said she believed that Fukunaga can pull off the same trick that the Indian director Shekhar Kapur managed with her 1998 film Elizabeth. “He is someone who is outside the culture, so he can shake it up, [meaning] we don’t get the chocolate-box version that everyone is familiar with.”

Andrea Arnold, who is directing Wuthering Heights, is a former children’s TV presenter who is one of arthouse cinema’s favourite new auteurs. Her first two films, Red Road and Fish Tank, were set amid grim British tower blocks and won prizes at the Cannes Film Festival.

Although the directors are certain to bring an idiosyncratic vision to the novels, Brontë enthusiasts should not be alarmed just yet. Fukunaga told The Times: “We are not reinventing the wheel here.” Both projects are expected to stick faithfully to the books and have sent out early statements of intent by casting actors of roughly the right age to play the heroines, in contrast to many previous screen versions.

The title role in Jane Eyre will be taken by Mia Wasikowska, the 20-year-old Australian actress, who played another eponymous character in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Mr Rochester will be Michael Fassbender, who played the lead in Hunger and had a memorable cameo in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Jamie Bell and Dame Judi Dench have supporting roles.

For Wuthering Heights, Arnold is looking for an unknown actor with foreign roots to play Heathcliff, described by Brontë as a “dark-skinned gypsy in aspect”. Arnold has cast Kaya Scodelario, the 18-year-old Skins actress, as Catherine.

Christine Langan, the head of BBC Films, acknowledged that revisiting classics is a fraught business. “There will be people saying, ‘Why the hell are they doing that all over again?’.” But the film industry is an uncertain place at the best of times and more than ever the search is on for stories with which audiences feel a familiar connection.

Six years ago 400 prominent women were asked which books had made the greatest difference to their lives. Wuthering Heights came second — just behind Jane Eyre.

Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester

Mia Wasikowska as Jane Eyre (?!?!?!)

26 thoughts on “Farewell Jane Austen, Hellooooo Brontes

  1. I must admit, I’ve never seen a Jane Eyre adaptation, though I’ve been watching tons of Austen ones lately (thinking about starting on the latest Persuasion today, if I can get my daily finals quota done…). I did like the book, though honestly, Jane was not my favorite character. I wonder if the series will make her more likable to me?

    Wuthering Heights, I still need to tackle!


    • YES! The series definately makes her more likeable. I too didn’t like her that much. It was Rochester I LOVED. I BEG for you to watch the latest version, starring Toby Stephens. You can even watch it on YouTube.

      Wuthering Heights is…..disturbingly good


  2. Interesting…very interesting. They can keep on remaking the classics, I’ll never tire of them. That’s for sure!

    Now, time for repose.


    • Same here. While I might prefer one adaptation to another, I still love watching them anyway! I was just thinking to myself recently that directors should make more GOOD ROMANTICp period movies. Then this article answered my wish


  3. Gasp, I loved loved loved Jane Eyre. I read it as a freshman in high school. I even did this crazy speech about the novel to my class using Barbie dolls as visual aids (don’t ask…). I really need to bone up on good literature again. I have a massive reading list started!



      You should read Wuthering Heights. But if you’ve seen the adaptation already the book might be forever ruined for you.


  4. Well, I’ve always disliked Charlotte Brontë because she said that about my beloved Jane. And I don’t agree when she says that. I think Jane Eyre is too far from reality, the passions are too high in my opinion. I felt the same about Wuthering Heights. Maybe I should give them a chance and read them once more. Interesting women say those two books changed their lives, because I think that Pride & Prejudice was a turning point for me, when the few things I still have of a child went away when I discovered how great Austen was and I felt very badly for what I have been reading till that moment… I was shocked I only read P&P when 18 so you see why!


    • I’m sure all Jane Austen die-hards resented Charlotte for what she said. I do agree with you in that Austen is more closer to reality–in that reality is often pretty ordinary. The ordinary love story of an ordinary man and woman. Whereas in Jane Eyre we have the extreme of almost everything. But…..that’s why I love Jane Eyre. There’s passion. The story burns me alive. Whereas with Austen’s work–it’s most often pleasant, and interesting look into mannerism… I guess it all comes down to personal taste! (though it seems the tide for Austen, or so it seems from reading the comments here haha)


  5. Austen is still my #1, but Jane Eyre is a favorite too. I personally feel that there can never be enough Bronte or Austen adaptations…I’m looking forward to this new Jane Eyre, even though I think it’s extremely unlikely Michael Fassbender can top Toby Stephens as Mr. Rochester! I thought he was just mediocre in Angel (opposite Romola Garai). I like Mia, but she does seem a bit too pretty to be Jane.


    • Toby Stephens was AWESOME. Me thinks he is one of the most charismatic actors alive. As for Mia….her age matches Jane, in that she does look like an 18 yr old. That’ll be an interesting change opposed to the other Janes where the actresses always looked to be in their late twenties


  6. I must say, I am more of a fan of Austen than the Brontes but they are still up there with the faves. I think the reason I like Jane better is because she’s not as dark and dreary. Too much blunt realism in the Brontes for me which actually make me think they are not focused on realism at all. I mean come on, if I were Jane Eyre and found out he locked his mentally crazed first wife in the attic and never told me about it until right before our wedding it’d be sianara Mr. Rochester! I don’t care what century, that sort of blatant lie would be a deal breaker.

    Sorry! I will always have the inevitable ‘but’ coming after the Brontes. To each his own

    Although, these movies better be excellent. I can’t handle another disappointing classic!


    • Oh, I like Charlotte because she IS dark and dready. Personal taste really 🙂 I do agree with you and MsThorntonDarcy that Austen is more realistic.

      Want to know something interesting? Charlotte Bronte dedicated this book to William Thackaray (sp?), author of Vanity Fair. It turns out that he had a wife confined to an asylum. So he likely took offence of Bronte’s treatment of the man wife.

      Other people took offence, and thus the novel ‘The Wide Saragoss sea’ (sp?–I’m horrible at spelling, gah!) was written…. The behind the scene story as to how the mad wife ended up locked up in the room.


      • Oh my, SCANDALOUS!!! You learn something new everyday! It reminds me of a soap opera … which I guess makes sense with all the extreme situations …


  7. I love both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights but I’m a big time Austen addict and always will be- my heart lies with Miss. Austen! 🙂
    That said, I will never get bored of watching different adaptations of the classics, I’m kind of obsessed with them! And in my mind she will be an amazing Jane Eyre but I agree with you- Johnny Depp as Rocherster could have stopped my heart! 😉


    • Same here, never will I tire from watching them! But I do often feel this sort of rivalry as I did for P&P. I watched th ’05 adaptation and felt jealous in the stead of the ’95 version.


  8. I’m thrilled we get to watch more of the ‘bonnet drama’ (love that name!) on the big screen. I really enjoyed Emma Thompson’s rendition of Sense and Sensibilities (being a Jane Austen) fan. I look forward to how the director would handle the darkness in Wuthering Heights! Thanks for sharing this news, June!


    • Wuthering Heights! I’m really curious about this new adaptation. All the versions I’ve seen weren’t that great…. I guess it’s because WH is such a violent love story that capturing it well on film is hard…


  9. I’ve always liked how Austen and the Brontes are all so good…and so different! Kind of knocks the concept of history being flat and one-dimensional on its hind end–that the same era produced Sense and Sensibility and Wuthering Heights! But we already knew that 🙂 And we already knew how different women can be from one another, too–I refuse to play favorites, because sometimes I’m in an Austen sort of mood, and other times I’m positively Bronte. Aren’t we all? Or perhaps it’s only me…

    Not sure about Mia as Jane…will have to see! I didn’t see Tim Burton’s Alice–that’s one take on a childhood favorite I wasn’t interested in.


    • I’m not sure about Mia either. She is too pretty….

      You’re right. It really does depend on one’s mood. If I want to be swept away by a dark, passionate love story, I will turn to the Brontes. If I am looking for something light hearted, witty, romantic, I will turn to Jane Eyre.


  10. “There is no truth, only perception.” My favorite reminder to lose my arrogance when reading your intriguing comments or posting my thoughts about Brontes-Austen comparisons. My perception of Austen is “clever, addictive narrative (too light to be satire; too impudent to be romances; too lacking in depth of human passions to be great literature), almost as witty as Wodehouse. My perception of the Brontes is
    great gothic literature with extraordinary forays across the spectrum of human emotions–with magnificent romance thrown in to alleviate some of the bleak honesty of the human condition.
    If you are still with me, please pay attention to the BBC 1971 series of Austen’s “Persuasion.” (Inexpensive DVDs abound) Just under four hours long, this series follows the book (incessantly, it seems on first view) and stars Anne Firbanks ( a bit old for the role but undoubtedly the most “Austen” Anne ever–including the wonderful Sally Hawkins) and the stellar Brian Marshall as Wentworth, who also has played several Bronte heroes rather magnificently.
    I am addicted to Austen’s non-threatening wit; however my literary sustenance lies with the Brontes.


    • “There is no truth, only perception.” That’s a very wise motto to go by. I’l’l probably be quoting it in the future. But ah, it resonates with one of the English courses I took in university on contemporary lit. Post-Moderism….a world where there is no solid truth, where everything is based on perception…

      I like your perception of Austen and Bronte! I definately wll check out the 1971 adaptation of Persuasion. I didn’t even know this version existed! I thought the earliest one was the 1995 one–which wasn’t all that great. But that’s my “perception” and I’ve had lots of people argue otherwise. I you should check out the 1980 version of P&P. It’s….fun to watch because…it’s such a bad, bad interpretation of the book. Like, REALLY poorly done.


  11. Thanks for your comments, junebugger. I’m a retired university prof and happy that you caught me out. I’m still addicted to classics but do press onward into serious review of modern and post-mod.
    Anyway, as Mary would say to Anne in Persuasion, “Ain’t this blog prime!”


    • *Gasp* A retired prof! reading my blog! what a an honor. Truly. I think becoming a prof, no matter how challenging it is, must be so rewarding in that you hold such great influence over the lives of students. My history prof’s lectures impacted me so much that his words ended up influencing the direction of the (unpublished) book I previously wrote. My English lit prof made me read books in a whole new way.

      I love trying to read a classic. But I still find difficulty getting through it, especially book written pre-19th century. I’m currently struggling through Tom Jones. What I enjoy most are contemporary books set in the past. And as for modern/post-mod books…they’re just so mind-boggling I only read them if it’s assigned (i.e. I would never have touched Woolfe’s To The Lighthouse with a ten foot pole had it not been for school)


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