The Brontë Sisters Film Projects: Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre

9783852725178_500Reading classic readers can be a fun discovery for teenagers, but it’s often helpful if they can find connections with the texts; bridges and paths that will help them find a way into the text. Films have proven to serve as excellent paths to the original novels. In 2011 two film adaptations (or we could say, interpretations) were born: Andrea Arnold reimagined Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, and Cary Fukunaga created a beautiful version of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. Both films offer worthy casts and unforgettable imagery, and they tell us something ‘fresh’ about both stories.

The Yorkshire countryside, the grim plot, and the harsh emotions will make these stories attractive to your students, you just have to tap into their interest in Gothic stories, hardship and unusual relationships. These stories raise issues that are excellent talking points in the classroom, and they also serve as mysterious journeys into the wild landscape of Yorkshire.

For these lessons you will need our worksheets (you can download them in PDF format), copies of the two readers (Level 4, Blue Series), a projector or an interactive whiteboard, and an internet connection.

Level: CEF A2, B1; Cambridge PET, Trinity 4, 5
Age: 13+
Themes: Family, Love

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, Level 4, Blue Series

Worksheet: Wuthering Heights film worksheet

Lesson ideas:

This film hasn’t been rated by the MPAA, but we recommend it for students over 16.

  • Show the book cover and some illustrations from the book to your students. Ask them if they know anything about this story, or if they can predict what it is going to be about.
  • Watch the film trailer, and discuss the Introduction and Names questions on the worksheet.
  • You can show images of the Yorkshire countryside and ask your students how they feel about this place.
  • When you have watched the film and read the story, discuss the questions on the setting, the themes and symbols, and compare the film and the novel.

Setting – words that describe the countryside and the weather:

  • rainy, cold, damp, wet, heavy rain, snowy, freezing, windy, foggy, stormy
  • mysterious, wild, bleak, desolate, isolated, romantic
  • moors, hedge, hill, field, farm

Themes and symbols

  • The weather is important in the film and the novel. It represents the difficulties of the characters’ lives. It rains a lot in the story, and there is a nice contrast between the moments near the fire in the safety and comfort of the house and the power and cruelty of the wild nature outside.
  • Animals: there are a lot of close-ups of animals in the film. There are moths, rabbits, dogs, birds, geese, horses and butterflies. We can see birds of prey chasing each other and fighting just like Cathy and Heathcliff run wildly in the fields. The caged yellow bird represents Isabella’s situation in her home.

Film and Novel

  • In the novel we have two main narrators, Mr Lockwood and Nelly Dean, and the story is told in a series of flashbacks. The story is told in a linear narrative stucture in the film.
  • The 2011 film adaptation tells us about the first generation, we do not learn about the second Catherine.
  • There are a lot of violent scenes in the film, explicitly showing what kind of cruelty Heathcliff had to face.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, Level 4, Blue Series

Worksheet: Jane Eyre film worksheet

Lesson ideas:

This film has been rated PG-13 by the MPAA.

  • Show the book cover and some illustrations from the book to your students. Ask them if they know anything about this story, or if they can predict what it is going to be about.
  • Watch the film trailer, and discuss the Introduction and Research questions on the worksheet. You can use this game to learn about women’s rights in Victorian Britain: BBC – British History Women’s Rights Quiz
  • Read about Charlotte Brontë, and discuss how her life experiences might have affected the story.
  • When you have watched the film and read the story, discuss the questions about the scenes, the characters, the themes and symbols, and compare the film and the novel.
  • Give enough time to your students to ‘update’ the story, and help them with the ‘Advice from Jane Eyre’ questions.

Scenes

  • Almost every illustration in the reader has a match in the film. Find these scenes, revise vocabulary and do a reading aloud session to narrate the scene.

Characters

  •  A lot of interpretations see Bertha Mason as Jane Eyre’s shadow, representing her repressions and fears.

Film and Novel

  •  The film is told through a series of flashbacks, but in the novel Charlotte Brontë used linear storytelling.

Advice from Jane Eyre

Download our film worksheets:

Would you like more resources?

Read more about using the classics in class here:

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