Wuthering Heights

Friday, 26 February 2010

wuthering heights

wuthering heights

wuthering heights

wuthering heights

wuthering heights

wuthering heights

wuthering heights

wuthering heights

wuthering heights

wuthering heights

wuthering heights

wuthering heights

wuthering heights

I've been asked to write about the latest screen adaptation of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, made in 2008, and that's precisely what I've been doing for the last couple of days. There are many things that I like about this version, such as the fact that the costumes don't overwhelm the narrative, as is often the case in many costume dramas, and the fact that Tom Hardy is brutal enough to play Heathcliff, who is, to the surprise of many people who read the novel, astoundingly brutal. I say surprise because Heathcliff has earned himself a cultural reputation as one of the most well-known romantic heroes, yet he is anything but in the pages of Brontë’s novel.

I guess this is part of the mythology that has been built around Wuthering Heights as a legendary love story. I can't tell you how many times I've had people tell me how disappointed they were that the novel did not live up to its romantic reputation, or how unsympathetic they found Cathy and Heathcliff. I don't think the point is to like any of the characters , or to view the narrative as an ideal love story. Another thing that often surprises me is how difficult it is for many people to actually consider that Cathy's vacillation between two men, and her inability to choose between them, is not a form of selfish "betrayal" or wilful childishness, but rather a stunningly acute and telling critique of the limited freedom and position of many nineteenth-century women like herself. Brontë was far too clever, in my opinion, to buy into the stereotype of a teasing woman.

I guess this is one the reasons why, despite my appreciation of this adaptation, it left me disappointed. It seems to me that it tried to play around with the original narrative in a manner that seeks to "explain" the more complex social and cultural motivations of the characters for a modern audience. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with adaptations that play around with their source text; I'm not a purest and I don't expect or even want the film to be faithful to the original text. Such a concept is highly naive anyway. My frustration was more to do with the fact that this adaptation sought simple explanations which seem to neatly close-off all the wonderful interrogative possibilities of Brontë’s novel.

Has anyone seen this version?


Deleilan said...

I have it on my DVR, but I have yet to watch it. The novel and I have a difficult relationship - I'm not entirely certain whether I love it or hate it...
I've never understood the Heathcliff-as-romantic-hero thing, to me he's the exact opposite!
I find your views of Cathy's behaviour (at the end of the 2nd paragraph) very thought-provoking. Yes, I can see that Brontë is far too lucid not to have perceived the shortcomings of society and exposed them; perhaps she's simply to subtle for most modern minds.

danica said...

i watched this version recently really enjoyed it. in fact, i think this may be the only tv/cinematic version i've seen! i agree that you don't have to like the characters - it's their psychological complexities that draw you in.

on a side note: i watched this with my mum and she kept commenting on cathy's turned eye. quite distracting!

amy said...

i've never read the book, but i did watch the film just the other week. i couldn't stand heathcliff, what an awful man!!

jessie said...

i have seen the film and i agree with you, the explanations in the adaption are simple but i still really enjoyed it. and i have just reread the book and loved it so much more than i did when i originally read it at school. i'm really enjoying working my way through to the classics

Principia said...

I remember reading this book when I was 15 or 16, sincerely hoping for a happy ending for Cathy and Heathcliff. I guess in a way you could say it was a happy ending? :s

anyway, I've never seen any screen production of it, and this one looks gorgeous! *searching on Google*

Des said...

I haven't seen it, but I understand the disappointment when an adaptation isn't executed very well.

Hila said...

deleilan: she's often presented as this innocent who had no idea about the "real" world when in fact, if you read her work, it is pretty clear that she understood her world all too all.

Danica: my mum commented on the same thing!

amy: I have to agree, not my idea of an "ideal" man :)

jessie: I'm so glad you loved the novel.

principia: I think they probably got the only ending that was possible for them :)

Des: I just felt it lacked insight, but I am approaching it with a critical, rather than purely entertainment, perspective.

Principia said...

I finally watched this yesterday, and to be honest I found Tom Hardy greatly distracting; in a good way of course :p
Couldn't imagine a better cast for Heathcliff.

Hila said...

He is a pretty good Heathcliff, isn't he?

in another lifetime said...

I found your blog through Nadia's La Porte Rouge, and all of your posts so far have resonated with me. Wuthering Heights is my favorite novel (how I wish Emily had written more!!!!). I did find it to be romantic....destructive love though it was. Some love burns everything up, or poisons the blood. And there is an urgency to it. The book reads true to me.

I also really liked your post about Into the Wild. To me it seemed as though he chased life over its border into death.

Congratulations on your graduation! Good luck to you.

Hila said...

in another lifetume: thanks for your thoughtful comment and for visiting my little blog. I do so wish Emily Bronte wrote more!! And that's such a good way of putting his philosophy in into the wild - chasing life to death. How genius.

natalie said...

You are right on about Brontë's intentions, I think. Sounds like you have studied 'Wuthering Heights' quite extensively. It has always been a favourite of mine.

For me, Heathcliff, however nasty and brutal he was intended to be by Brontë, I am still in love with him (I think the image of Ralph Fiennes and his language of the trees stunt, doesn't hurt. I think he has the ultimate Heathcliff look though not the temperament, whom I think Tom Hardy had completely).

But onto the adaptation. I found it to be a fantastic version entertainment-wise. I think it touched on a lot of the frustrations I had for the other adaptations (especially the laurence olivier, which I have never been able to watch in one sitting).

For one, it had the freedom with time as it was more a series than a feature film, so it was able to develop the foundations of the relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff and the rest of the characters.

I especially liked the actor who played young Hindley. He was absolutely brilliant! I could spend all day talking about this so I won't go any further than to say, it allowed itself to be quite a good adaptation of the novel, yet, I agree with you in that it did not take chances by delving deeper than most viewers' knowledge of the surface of 'Wuthering Heights', which is a shame.

I still very much enjoyed it though and will surely be willing to watch it over and over.

Mikela. said...

the 2009 adaptation of Wuthering Heights was my first experience of the story. I was driven to watch from my newfound love of Tom Hardy. I knew nothing about the story other than it was apparently about a tragic romance. I wasn't expecting much, but not far into the adaptation I was overwhelmed by the emotion and feeling in it. The acting could not have been done better by anyone. Tom Hardy is an extremely underrated actor and I think this role is right up there in terms of quality. I had not shed so many tears over a fictional story than I did during the viewing of Wuthering Heights. After watching the adaptation 4 times in 2 days, I desperately rushed to the library and borrowed the novel. The novel stands to be the only book that has ever made me cry. Heathcliff is a hideous character, but it is almost painful to see how much he loved Cathy and I was driven mad by how he was treated by Edgar and Hindley. My heart broke so many times and it was beautiful the way Emily Brontë made the contrast between the light and dark in his character so very separate. It was a beautiful novel, such beautiful expression and emotion. So unreal yet so engrossing. This book is my absolute favourite, which is a bit strange as I find it difficult to absorb myself of books written in this period that are not by Jane Austen. Since I was introduced to Wuthering Height I cannot stop raving about it and at 15 years old I think it has been a milestone in my life, and has certainly introduced me to interesting literaturediscussions with adults.