Wuthering Heights

Director: William Wyler

1939

“William Wyler’s film version of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is unsurpassed as a gothic tale of inextinguishable passion, thwarted by social circumstance and mischance.” (144, R. Barton Palmer, 1001 Movie You Must See Before You Die)

Wuthering HeightI find myself disagreeing with pretty much everything R. Barton Palmer has to say about Wuthering Heights.

I was unmoved by the narrative and the sets did little for me either. Indeed while watching the film I felt quite enclosed even when on the moors and couldn’t figure out why. Now knowing that the moors were created in the studio sound stages it all makes sense. “It is the acting of Olivier and Oberon as the doomed lovers, framed against the forbidding wildness of the studio-crafted moors, that makes the film most memorable.” (144)

I didn’t really know the story of Wuthering Heights, just that Heathcliff and Cathy were one of the infamous literary couples, up there with Elizabeth & Darcy, Scarlett & Rhett, Jane Eyre & Rochester. Theirs is a doomed love, which usually makes for an epic story. Unfortunately that’s not how I saw them when watching this version of Wuthering Heights. I found Cathy to have a spoilt child-like temperament, which did not endear her character to me. And the relationship they form is a toxic one – and not just to themselves but everyone else unfortunate enough to orbit the pair. I didn’t see much love, doomed or otherwise, but rather an unhealthy obsession with possessing the other to the destruction of everyone and everything around them. “Heathcliff’s speech about the life they will live together is one of the most poignant moments in any Hollywood film.” (144)

Despite not liking the film I am intrigued by the possibility that the doomed love story of Heathcliff and Cathy was lost in translation and might actually bring myself to read the novel.

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