Introduction: In this article, Adam Carlson explains the deep meaning of one of the most famous romantic novels, “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte, reviewing Juliette Binoche and Ralph Fiennes’ famous film.
Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights: B
The power of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights has always been in its devastating richness of emotion; how well her pens captures the tormented love between Catherine Earnshaw (Juliette Binoche) and Heathcliffe (Ralph Fiennes) on the high, cold Moors. Brontë, a resident of the English Moors herself, also knows a little of the isolated treachery, depression, and (in some twisted, delightful way) wit that lives there too and as one works their way through the complicated and thrilling prose, the story of the Heights becomes a tale for the ages; dark, sad, and completely unforgettable - one of the better books I've read in these last years.
Yet the catch, too, of Brontë's only novel is in its complication. Forget for a moment even the least of a filmmaker's worries - that rotating-narrators technique the author so skillfully deployed - and there are still at least a dozen other snags in any adaptation's plans-to-the-screen; namely, the entire second generation spawned between the blighted machinations of Heathcliffe and Cathy - a group of people who are the predominant focus of the book's latter half and without whom (as the hallowed 1939 film version, one I found somehow not morose enough, demonstrated so well) the book's continuing edgy drama and woe goes a little...flat.
Well, no such troubles will hound this British (finally!) interpretation of one crackling, sprawling, wicked opera of the soul. In the case of director Peter Kosminsky and writer Ann Devlin, almost no trouble exists in this sense: they pack in as many of the plot's minute details as they can; and, through the use of a ghostly-whisper narration (provided by the author herself, and played with a great chill of a voice by Sinéad O'Connor), they attain the majority of Brontë's broad - and tragically humane - emotional specturm. The result, as I've spent so much time dodging, is one of the better Heights adaptations I have ever seen, the best in fact.
Still, it is a testament to the depth of the source material that even through all the clever shortcuts (thank goodness for circumventing those awful Linton-Cathy scenes!) and expose-in-voice-over (thank goodness for giving us just the right amount of Hindley, Ms. Brontë!), this version loses something in translation. Perhaps it is that it fails to fully fathom the sick dichomoties between Catherine and Heathcliffe - though it faithfully captures the most startlingly dramatic scenes surrounding them well enough. Or maybe it's that a previous traveler to the author's more desolate original world, full of cockney-spewing, pious butlers and righteous maids is jarred by re-visiting and somehow slimmer population on screen; though kudos are in order to Kosminsky for capturing, through muted quick-cut seconds of Moor, the jagged physical and mental landscapes of the character's minds.
In fact, that's perhaps the best thing I can say - and it is what makes this movie, above all other attempts, the most full even as it doesn't fully realize to stand up itself. Binoche and Fiennes do solid work with their polymorphic characters against Devlin's utterly true-to-the-standard screenplay (FYI: loved that it snatches whole speeches from the book) and the supporting cast, not introduced until the last 25 minutes or so, live up to those final remorseful minutes with stoic passion. It is that stoic passion, after all, that Emily Brontë tapped and subverted in her high, austere cadences for a truly sweeping tragedy; and it is that same stoic passion that these British filmmakers live up to with some admirable regard - capturing, if not the true richness of her creation, than at least a more lively (and emotionally powerful) impression of it than Laurence Olivier's scowls.
| Adam Carlson|
A college student based in Atlanta, Georgia, Adam Carlson has been writing about the arts for four years. He's maintained a blog of his commentary at TwilightChaos.Blogspot.com. Lately he's worked as freelance product reviewer for GNS, Inc. and at some undisclosed point in the future (though, he hopes, it is sooner rather than more un-) he hopes to put his double-degree in Film Studies and Spanish to good use.