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Thread: Film Versions of Wuthering Heights.

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    Film Versions of Wuthering Heights.

    Film Versions of Wuthering Heights.
    Part 1.

    M. Heger, her teacher in Brussels, expressed the view that Emily ought to become a philosopher: she had “a head for logic, and a capability of argument, unusual in a man, and rare indeed in a woman.” (1) Martha Nussbaum in her analysis argues: “Bronte's description alluded to the imagery of the Christian ascent tradition. As in Augustine and Dante, love is a flame that animates the eyes, a lighting bolt that pierces the fog of our obtuse daily condition; as in tradition, love's energy causes the lover to leap away from petty egoism of the daily into an ecstatic and mutually loving embrace. But we know we are far from the world of the Christian ascent, even its erotic Augustinian form. Cathy's spring is not an upward, but a horizontal movement – not toward heaven, but toward her beloved moors and winds, severed from which she would find heaven miserable; not toward God but toward Heathcliff, the lover of her soul.”(2) What is true of Cathy is even more so of Emily.
    Thus Wuthering Heights can be read not only as a novel but even more so as allegorical to Emily's philosophy, and as philosophy it invites a multiplicity of interpretations. Especially when the interpretations are artistic, as in the medium of film.

    DVD's of Wuthering Heights

    David T in Wuthering Heights films (, does a very good job in listing the available versions of Wuthering Heights films. In his own words -” I try to avoid as much as possible general criticism of the version such as acting, direction, script, etc. since these are a matter of opinion and mine is no more preferable to anyone else. Instead I examine the objective aspects of the versions such as how much of the novel it covers, how accurate the characters and locations are, etc.”
    My view is, since the brain processes the written word substantially different from how it processes the visual image, the translation of a novel is an adaptation and requires different aesthetic judgments. In Sympathy for the Devil, Lin Haire-Sargent analyzes four translation of Wuthering Heights into film:
    William Wyler, Wuthering Heights, 1939, available as a DVD.
    Luis Bunuel, Un Chien Andalou, 1954, available in DVD.
    Robert Fuest, Wuthering Heights, 1970, available as a DVD.
    Peter Kaminsky, Wuthering Heights, 1992, available as a DVD.
    *Jacques Rivette, Hurlevent, 1985, available as a DVD.

    *Jacques Rivette's, Hurlevent, is not discussed by Lin Haire-Sargent. I include it for it's unusual treatment of the novel, transposed to the French countryside.
    “With his usual enigmatic and detached manner, Jacques Rivette breezes through Bronte’s dense source material. The film begins with a dream sequence, which quickly introduces the theme of passion and violence. As seen here, Rivette does not illustrate the character’s emotion, but rather sets the tone for each sequence and let the story unfold from there. Not the kind of narrative we’re used to, but the final payoff is rewarding ("Howling Wind"!). With its elegant circular motion and restrained (but lush) colors, once again Renato Berta’s cinematography is gorgeous. Rivette and Berta’s only collaboration makes this a must see!”- Chashire Cat in Netflix reviews.

    Lin Haire-Sargent makes a very important distinction of a novel translated to the film medium: “Bronte's means to greatness were linguistic; the filmmaker's must be visual. Where the novelist's words spark individual, intimate mind pictures in each reader, the filmmaker must define the images on the screen, the same for all viewers, and in doing so ground the story in time and space – the time and space in which the movie is filmed, not that in which the story is set. In these ways and others, the filmmaker creates a work of art separate from the “original” yet connected in an intimate way. So we should not judge a movie made from a book as a copy. Rather, we should evaluate whether the movie communicates something of the book's particular art. Then we should ask by what means the art is communicated, since it must be communicated by analog. Finally, we should tender the most important question; does the film succeed as a work of art in it's own right? If it does, it creates its own sufficient reason for being. If it does not, it can be criticized not only as a failed film but as a failed adaptation: every departure from the novel becomes a fault. And even a great movie based on a novel has one irredeemable flaw: it is not the novel.“(3)

    The above should be read twice, since many object that the film does not faithfully depict every word/scene of the book and that criticism is a gross misunderstanding of the translation of a novel into a film.

    William Wyler's Wuthering Heights.

    “In his adaptation, Wyler goes a long way towards solving the problem of Heathcliff with casting: Lawrence Olivier plays Heathcliff like Heathcliff playing Lawrence Olivier. The young Olivier delivers a bravura turn as an anesthetized brute whose intelligence takes him on forays into psychological sympathy...the Wyler/Olivier version gives the strongest analog of Heathcliff's felt emotion, the injustices endured and absorbed, the repressed passion and rage. The film is holographic; every frame, in narrative content and composition, contains the whole story. Wyler controls a black-and-white palette of exquisitely shaded tonality; … the luminously glowing whites, the engulfing blacks, and the shimmering grays eloquently express emotional and spiritual nuance.
    The story is considerably truncated in the 103-minute version. Lockwood … the family he encounters is not the second generation Earnshaws and Littons – that story has been cut. Rather it is Isabella, Nelly Dean, Joseph, and a softened Heathcliff – who, when, reminded of his manners, responds with urbane irony: “I hardly know how to treat a guest – I and my dog.” and himself offers Lockwood lodging.
    The story of the entanglements of Heathcliff, Cathy, Edgar, and Isabella, is followed through to Cathy's death. Then there is a return to the frame story. As Nelly concludes her tale, Dr. Kenneth comes in out of the blizzard. He has found Heathcliff's body by Penistone Crag after having seen a vision of him and Cathy. The film ends with a long shot of Heathcliff and Cathy ascending Penistone Crag together.
    To get from Joseph's presentation - “the bridal chamber” to Lockwood's reaction, the camera pans across what seems an immense expanse of dingy, candle-lit wall. The meaning of this emphasis on space is not the claustrophobia of the interlocking narratives and the closed worlds of the Heights and the Grange that really exist in Bronte's pages, but rather an edgy agoraphobia that at once contains its opposite and suggest its transcendence.
    Another paradox: in the novel, Heathcliff and Cathy are characterized by violent movement – motion equals emotion. In the film Cathy and Heathcliff, the most tempestuous of lovers, are portrayed through the poetics of immobility.
    There is one scene in the film that brilliantly deploys the narrative's two lines of emotional symbolism, the agoraphobic use of space and the burning paralysis of the lovers. In a scene that does not appear in Bronte's book Edgar and Cathy give a ball at Thrushcross Grange. The scene begins with dance music, then a fade to a moving shot as the camera pans up over a stone wall for an exterior view of Thrushcross Grange, recalling an earlier scene where prelapsarian Heathcliff and Cathy spied on just such a ball. With Cathy's marriage to Edgar she has become part of this world, while Heathcliff, though mysteriously transformed into a gentleman, remains shut out.
    Through brilliantly lit windows we can glimpse dancing couples. Then there is a fade to the interior scene shown through an ornate mirror. Lighting is high key, focus is deep. The camera fixes its gaze on the entrance door; the footmen admit Heathcliff, in impeccable evening dress, a tall black column against the hard white surfaces of the ballroom. A bit latter he stands immobile behind a seated Isabella; ...There is an extended close-up of a somber Heathcliff; we know where his unswerving gaze is directed. Cut to a close-up of Cathy. She is a snow woman with her white bared shoulders, and her apparel might be ice. ..She is like an ice sculpture, especially when Heathcliff's gaze freezes her. Then, though she struggles against it, her eyes are drawn to him. Such is the force of his gaze that it draws not only Cathy's notice but the notice of the crowd. The resulting voyeuristic heat is extraordinary. Will Cathy melt?
    In Wyler's rationale for fabricating this scene we see his genius as a filmmaker.”(3)

    Luis Bunuel's Abismos de Pasion

    “In 1954, a quarter of a century after, Luis Bunel made a low-budget black-and-white adaptation of Wuthering heights called Abismos de Passion. Bunel has no problems buying sympathy for Heathcliff, in this version called Alejandro (jorge Mistral). He makes him a much better person than Emily Bronte did, and he makes Edgar Litton character much worse. Abismos de Passion covers a narrower time span than any other version of Wuthering Heights.... This gives Bunel space to explore what clearly interest him most: the mesh of emotions among the five love-hate entangled siblings and lovers Alejandro, Catalina, Isabella, Eduardo, and Hindley character Ricardo. Bunel's version is unique in that the latter three characters are as fully developed as the first two.
    He both simplifies and moralizes their stories (in such a way as to remind us that opera's conventions are more in tune with Bunel's Spanish culture than Bronte's Anglo-Celtic roots, valorizing the heroic instinctual masculinity of Alejandro on one hand, the faithfulness of the wronged wife Isabella in the other.
    The opening of the film sets Bunel's simplifying moral tone. … We are offered this introduction:'These characters are at the mercy of their own instincts and passions. They are unique beings for whom the so called social conventions do not exist. Alejandro's love for Catalina is fierce and inhuman feeling that can only be fulfilled through death.'
    'Inhuman', 'instinct' and 'fierce' are the key words here, for the trope in this movie is animal. All the principal characters are identified both as animal predators and as prey- visual correlates of their cruelty to each other.” (3) Catalina kills buzzards - “I kill them with one shot. They pass to death's liberty without feeling anything.” Alejandro's cruelty is depicted by the crushing of a butterfly and “a bit latter, the leisurely piercing of the insect with a pin (we are reminded that in Aztec lore, butterflies were the souls of the dead. … The climax of cruelty occurs at the moment when Catalina swears to Eduardo that she will never again seek out Alejandro. A close-up of her proud smile; cut to the grimace of a terrified pig being roughly dragged to slaughter. We escape only as its throat is slit.”
    If Bunel's staging is operatic, if use of animal symbolism is essentially literary, still his most masterful effects are achieved through purely cinematic means. Through subtle manipulation of light and repetition of similarly composed shots, he builds up our sense of the transcendent relation of Catalina and Alejandro, and in doing so gains sympathy for Alejandro.”
    “There is a cluster of images and associations here: Catalina equals light, and light stands for absolute union with the beloved, the kind of union that is impossible except in memories of shared childhood paradise, and in death. This question holds true in Bronte's book too. In spirit, if emphatically not in letter, Bunuel has been true to Bronte.”(3)

    Emily's Wuthering Heights from the day of publication has generated controversy, of Heathcliff's character, of the nature of Cathy's love, of the thematic structure of the novel, whether the two parts suggests an ethical division and above all what was Emily's intent. That there doesn't exist a single plausible answer is attested by the film adaptations of the novel. Thus the question is whether the adaptations are true to Emily's meaning, not whether they are true to the prose. The most radical of these interpretations, the one that deviates most from the words, is Abismos de Passion.
    By all means see the film. Failing that read the full review by Vincent Candby.
    He captures the uniqueness of the adaptation, conscious that Buenel remains true to Bronte's intent.

    Abismos de Pasion (1953), review by VINCENT CANBY, December 27, 1983

    Love and Revenge WUTHERING HEIGHTS , (Abismos de Pasion), directed by Luis Bunuel; screenplay by Mr. Bunuel, Arduino Maiuri, and Julio Alejandro de Castro, based on the Emily Bront"e novel; director of photography, Agustin Jimenez; edited by Carlos Savage; music by Wagner adapted by Raul Lavista; produced by Oscar Dancigers; released by Plexus Film. In Spanish with English subtitles. At the Public, 425 Lafayette Street. Running time: 90 minutes. This film is not rated. CatalinaIrasema Dilian AlejandroJorge Mistral IsabelLilia Prado EduardoErnesto Alonso

    OF all of the Mexican films that Luis Bunuel made for the mass market of Spanish- speaking audiences, his 1954 screen adaptation of Emily Bronte's ''Wuthering Heights,'' called ''Abismos de Pasion'' when released in Mexico, is probably the work that's most full of riches for those of us who consider Bunuel one of the great film directors of all time. …..

    ''Abismos de Pasion'' - the Spanish title seems much more appropriate than the Bronte original - is an almost magical example of how an artist of genius can take someone else's classic work and shape it to fit his own temperament without really violating it. This ''Wuthering Heights'' is nothing if not Spanish in its tone. It's also Roman Catholic down to its toes in the way that it reflects the particular obsessions of the self-described nonbeliever who made it....

    It's still the tale of the mystical, all- consuming love of the well-born Cathy (here named Catalina) for her childhood sweetheart, the handsome, rudely tyrannical, former stable boy, Heathcliff, renamed Alejandro by Bunuel. The English moors are now the barren hills of rural Mexico and what once seemed to be a romantic rebellion against the genteel manners of Anglican England has now become a darker, timeless war between the forces of light and darkness.
    Alejandro (Jorge Mistral) is driven not just by his love of Cathy and desire for revenge against the family that humiliated him as a boy. He has, as subsidiary characters say more than once, made a pact with the Devil, and we may well believe it. This is actually a far more reasonable explanation of how, during a mysterious absence, he acquired the enormous wealth that he now uses to humble his former masters. After all, rude, unmannerly stable boys don't easily become rich overnight.
    Catalina (Irasema Dilian) is also a far gutsier, far less sentimental character than Merle Oberon's Cathy, who seemed primarily motivated by the willfulness of a pampered child. In Bunuel's scheme of things, the love that flows between Alejandro and Catalina is so strong - and so beyond analysis in any ordinary emotional or sexual terms - that we can take it that she is part of any pact that Alejandro may or may not have made with anyone, including Beelzebub. When Catalina announces that she loves Alejandro ''more than the salvation of my soul,'' the point is to shock the Roman Catholic audiences as much as the other characters within the film.
    Bunuel, of course, never makes any reference to the Devil without a wink of mock astonishment. In an opening message to the audience he tells us that what we're about to see is a story about characters at the mercy of their instincts and passions. To Catalina's faithful husband, Eduardo (Ernesto Alonso), and to his sister, Isabel (Lilia Prado), who loves Alejandro and, unfortunately, marries him, passions and instincts represent a hideous state of pre-Christian damnation.
    Eduardo and Isabel are believers. They are among the saved. They are civilized, a point with which Bunuel has a good deal of fun as he shows us the studious Eduardo carefully pinning a live butterfly to a mat and Isabel out on a morning stroll, shooting vultures. If the civilized are more savage than the heathen, Bunuel would prefer the company of the lost.
    There's also an astonishing amount of self-awareness in Bunuel's Catalina and Alejandro. They accept their fate as lovers who will go beyond the grave together with an unemotional kind of placidity. When Catalina warns Isabel not to marry Alejandro, it's not because she is jealous but because she knows that Isabel will be crushed casually and without anything that might be called redeeming malice - Isabel will have simply gotten in the way of fate.
    At key moments, Miss Dilian displays a terrific fondness for the smug, self-satisfied smile, but that is a convention of the melodramatic acting of the time. She looks like any number of other blond Mexican actresses Bunuel used at this period of his career, representing an idealization later to be exemplified in the talent and the grand, chilly beauty of Catherine Deneuve in ''Belle de Jour'' and ''Tristana.'' Mr. Mistral is a more than adequate Alejandro, though his handsomeness appears to be that of a Latin American spinoff of Victor Mature....

    Among the other reasons that ''Abismos de Pasion'' is not to be missed is the film's final sequence, which is just as breathtaking as the final sequence of ''Tristana'' - and even more outrageous.


    1.Juliet Baker, The Brontes (London: Orion 1994)
    2.Martha Nussbaum, Philosophy and Literature 20 (1996), Hopkins University Press.
    3. Lin Haire-Sarbeant, Sympathy for the Devil: The Problem of Heathcliff in Film Versions of Wuthering Heights.
    Last edited by Peripatetics; 11-18-2009 at 09:48 AM. Reason: Sectional Modification

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    If this is your *own* original writing you may proceed; if not, please respect copyright laws:

    especially post #3.
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    *own original writing.

    On 11-02-2009, 12:24 PM, Logos posted:
    If this is your *own* original writing you may proceed; if not, please respect copyright laws:

    Either Logos did not carefully read my posting, the quotation marks and the attribution in the references, or she does not recognize the distinction between published printed material and the web based sources. In either case her use of *own* implies plagiarism and is offensive. This is reinforced by the fact that I attempted to explain my position in an email note to which she deemed it unnecessary to reply. Consequently I shall attempt publicly to clarify my position that I had no intent to violate the copyright in including the quotations from Philosophy and Literature by Martha Nussbaum, and of the review of Abismos de Pasion (1953), by Vincent Canby.

    1) The citation on copyright from ; “Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports.”, should suffice as I clearly identified the authors and sources for the material in quotation marks that I used to advance my argument of the film adaptations of Wuthering Heights, since the material qualifies as a 'scholarly report'.

    Now to the specifics that Logos found objectionable:

    2) Philosophy and Literature by Martha Nussbaum is copyrighted, however excerpts from the work are open on the web, free, while the full article is for pay. Consequently I assumed that the that the free web sections were free of copyright restrictions. If I'm in error, the - citation on copyright from – would permit use of quotes from the work for criticism and scholarly usage.
    3)I quote Vincent Canby's review of Abismos de Pasion (1953) whole. Reviews in NYT are not identified with copyright and are openly reproduced on the web and in print. As long as the source is identified by author and source, copyright restrictions do not seem to apply.
    4)In both cases my understanding of copyright is for commercial, ie. monetary safeguards of author's rights. By quoting the material, I derive no pecuniary interests, nor do I deprive the authors of the same. I clearly put the material in quotation marks and in references, identified the authors and source, consequently I did not deprive the authors of intellectual rights.

    I'll assume that the Forum's rules on copyright -

    Please! respect the copyright laws of the United States and/or your own country when posting content to the discussion forums here.
    *Anything* published during or after the year 1923 can *not* be posted here in its entirety--be it a story, news item, review, article, essay, novel, poem, translation, image, sound file etc. etc.
    Just because "content"--be it a story, news item, review, article, essay, novel, poem, translation, image, sound file, etc. etc. is on another website does not necessarily mean that there is permission to post it here.

    Quote:5. If you are going to refer to or use content from other sites, authors, or entities, you must include a link or citation for it. You cannot copy and paste entire articles, stories, poems, or etc. from other sites or entities as that is copyright infringement, and contributes nothing to discussion. You should not need more than a few lines, sentences, or maybe a paragraph, to make your point in reference to the topic/discussion. From ; “Under the fair use doctrine of the U.S. copyright statute, it is permissible to use limited portions of a work including quotes, for purposes such as commentary, criticism, news reporting, and scholarly reports.” Passing off others’ work as your own, whether unintentionally or purposefully, is copyright infringement, and the Literature Network abides by the Copyright Laws of the United States of America and of other countries where applicable.

    Note that “*Anything* published during or after the year 1923 can *not* be posted here in its entirety” is in contradiction to citation where such is permitted for scholarly use. Given her usage of *xxx* marks, the above - *Anything* published during or after the year 1923 can *not* be posted here in its entirety, is a personal opinion,not a legal interpretation, however I'm quite aware of the Forum's rule that the Moderator's rulings are final and not open to discussion.

    Yes, for the record, it is my own original writing. My view is that Logos interpretation is narrowly legalistic, authoritarian, that she is not sensitive to “Beauty consists of its own passing, just as we reach for it.”, quote from Elegance and the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, and given the fact that she is Dutch, unmindful of her country's past fight against authoritarian censorship.
    Thank your for your time.

  4. #4
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    You would do better at taking the moderator of this forum seriously instead of doubting her judgment.

    I find it utterly despicable that, firstly you quote total paragraphs of works and add not much to it yourself and secondly that then you discuss the opinion of the moderator who is responsible fr keeping this forum open.

    You do realise that, if more people were like you and kept going, this forum would be closed down, don't you?

    The fact that certain excerpts are open on the net does not mean at all that they are without copyright (how can they be if the whole work is). It means that the people that have published them have got permission of the author or institution that holds the copyright to pubish them in the best case. Worst scenario is that they would not have it, and they are breaking the law. It does not mean that you yourself can take anything and put this forum in danger.

    At any rate, quoting whole paragraphs is indeed not 'limited' use.

    The art of quoting an article is that one reads it, sumerises it in a satisfactory and right manner and puts in a reference. Not that one quotes whole paragraphs of it.

    And at any rate what Dutch fight against censorship? That must be very long ago. I remind you that you are speakng to a citizen of a nieghbouring country...
    Last edited by kiki1982; 11-16-2009 at 12:59 PM.
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