Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wuthering Heights in Film

Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights is one of my all-time favorite love stories. I love it because it is not your typical romance. It features deeply flawed and somewhat unlikable characters, has revenge as a major plot point, and has an unhappy ending. Despite of this, or maybe even because of this, Wuthering Heights is a very beloved novel and has been adapted for the screen over a dozen times. While I haven't seen every version, these are the versions that I have seen.

This was the first version I had seen, and was the film that made me fall in love with this story. It gets a lot of criticism because it only covers half of the book, but I really don't care. If it did cover the whole book it would have either been twice as long, or it would have had to cut out a lot of stuff and I wouldn't change a thing about this film. Merle Oberon is great as Cathy. When I first saw this movie I thought that she was a total bitch, and that is basically what Cathy is. She is completely selfish, and I think that Oberon does a great job portraying her that way. Geraldine Fitzgerald is also great as Isabella. I love how you see her go through such a transformation. She goes from foolish lovesick girl, to broken and sad, and thinking that it would benefit her if Cathy dies. The reason why this film is so great, however, is because of Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff. He plays the different sides of Heathcliff perfectly, both the heartbroken side and the vengeful side. The shot of him looking down when he overhears Cathy say that it would degrade her to marry him was enough to break my heart and make me burst into tears. So, even though this isn't the most accurate adaptation of the novel, it will always be my favorite.

If you're looking for a movie to entertain you, this probably isn't the best version to choose. It is very dated and the film quality isn't that great. This is the version that is closest to the novel, however, so I guess this is the one to watch if you're too lazy to read the book for a class or something. Probably the biggest difference was pushing the entire frame story to the very end. I was getting quite annoyed with Cathy in the first part of this, but Cathy is supposed to be a brat. I thought that Ian McShane's portrayal of Heathcliff was a bit odd until he came back after getting his riches. He was much better as rich Heathcliff than stableboy Heathcliff. This version also has both generations, which is cool. They have the same woman play Cathy and Catherine (also done in the 1992 version), which I suppose they did to give they actress more screen time even though Catherine isn't supposed to look like her mom. It took me a while to get into this one, but I did end up liking it.

This is another version that covers only the first half of the book. While I do like Timothy Dalton (he has that great deep voice), he is really not my favorite Heathcliff. I suppose its more the screenwriter's fault, but basically all he does in this movie is cry or not say anything. He also does this thing where he pushes Cathy whenever they start to have a tender moment. Like their faces will get close, so you think that they're going to kiss, and then he pushes her against a wall, or pushes her on the ground. It's somewhat odd. There was one part in this movie that didn't really shock me, but surprised the hell out of me, because I really wasn't expecting it. It's the part when Heathcliff is kissing Isabella and I forget what word he used but he basically asks her to have sex with him. I was like "whaaaaaat???!?" It was out of nowhere... One thing that really bugged me about his was that they didn't really have the two big speeches from the novel. Both the "I am Heathcliff" and the "I cannot live without my life" speeches were really cut short, and the latter wasn't really said at all. Lame. It also doesn't have the frame story at all. No "let me in!" Hmm...

This one really plays up Heathcliff's grumpy side. Yes, Heathcliff treats Isabella like shit, but in this one he smacks her around and is a really big shithead. I do think that Ralph Fiennes makes a great Heathcliff though, and does his brooding side justice. This movie crams both generation stories into a two hour film, so it does leave out a lot, and Nelly is pretty unimportant in this film. What I love about this movie is that even though Juliette Binoche is all giggly and that is kind of annoying, she does say the entire "I am Heathcliff speech."

This is my least favorite (normal) version that I have seen. A part of me thinks that it has something to do with me being shallow because this version has the worst looking Heathcliff, but I also just didn't care for this movie in general. Even though Robert Cavanagh is around the same age as several other actors who have played Heathcliff, he just seems way too old. I also didn't really care for the fact that he shouted the beginning of the "I cannot live without my life" speech. Probably the best thing about this movie was Matthew Macfadyen as Hareton.

This was an odd one to see. It's MTV's modern day sort-of musical version of Wuthering Heights. It wasn't as terrible as I thought it was going to be, but it is still not that great. They've updated all the names so Heathcliff becomes Heath, Edgar becomes Edward, Hindley becomes Hendrix (wtf?), and so on. This movie was just really corny, and the songs were not good at all, and pretty much the only plus side is that Mike Vogel is really nice looking. It is a good think that they didn't update both generations because at the end they have Cathy's/ Kate's baby daddy be Heath instead of Edward. So Heath would be trying to set up half-siblings instead of cousins. Eeeeeew. There is only one part that has any hint of writing from Emily Bronte, and that is when Kate says "I am Heath." While there have been good modern-day versions of classic literature like Clueless and 10 Things I Hate About You, the MTV version of Wuthering Heights does not make that list.

Even though I do have a lot of criticisms of this version, it is my second favorite adaptation. Tom Hardy is awesome as Heathcliff, and it also features Andrew Lincoln as my favorite Edgar from any Wuthering Heights film. He is so handsome and sweet, and makes you almost understand why she would leave Heathcliff and marry him. My one major criticism of this movie is that they make Cathy too nice!!! Cathy is supposed to be a selfish brat, and she doesn't come across that way at all in this movie. They even change one of the most important parts to make her feel more sympathetic. Instead of Heathcliff overhearing her tell Nelly that Edgar asked her to marry him, they have her tell him instead. Then, when she is telling Nelly about it, she seems all bummed out about it as if she is being forced to marry Edgar, which just doesn't make sense at all. Other than that though, I do really like this version. It has my favorite cast for the second generation of characters, and I like it enough to forgive that it excludes the frame story.

This movie is supposed to be released in the UK in September, and yet I have not found a trailer or even a production still from this movie. It is directed by Andrea Arnold, who directed a movie I really liked called Fish Tank, and stars a bunch of actors that I have never heard before. The cast has actually changed quite a bit since it first started being made. The first I heard about it was when it was supposed to star Ed Westwick and Gemma Arterton, which would have been great! Even better would have been Michael Fassbender and Abbie Cornish who were set to star even before that. Natalie Portman was even in talks to play Cathy Earnshaw at one point. What makes this version so intriguing is that Heathcliff is going to be played by a black actor named James Howson. In the book, Heathcliff is described as dark skinned, but that is because he is a gyspy, not because he is black. Regardless of this, I do think it is cool to have a not-white actor in a film like this because you rarely ever see that. Hopefully there will be a trailer for this movie sometime in the near future because I am super anxious to see it!

1 comment:

  1. 1970 Timothy Dalton version:
    Isabella: "You're hurting me."
    Heathcliff: "You love it."
    Isabella: "Oh... Heathcliff! Oh, precious... oh, darling!"
    Heathcliff: "Would you fancy a tumble, then?"
    Isabella: "What's that?"
    Heathcliff: "And do you want it here... or in bed?"
    Isabella: "Oh!" (Slap!) "You beast!"
    Heathcliff: (Smiles coyly, then notices that Nelly has been watching.)