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Archive for February, 2011

Recommended: ☆☆☆☆

Running time: 142 min (2 episodes)  Genre: Gothic FilmThis is a personal favorite and will be the one I will watch again and again, over a period of time. This version is something very different from the others; it refuses to be a slave to your Penguin Classic, taking huge liberties with the novel bringing literal events to where once these events were vaguely implied at best, though I didn’t think this was particularly problematic while the innate nature of the novel is still intact. I won’t be pointing out every changes here, I am not some possessive Bronte nerd. Lets put it this way, this is not your grandma’s Wuthering Heights!

This movie keeps your full attention. It begins on a dark, bleak night with throbbing rhythm of guitar music, the camera swung low at ground level creeping along a dirt path, crawling into the house like an animal and up the stairs. Old Heathcliff is laying in Catherine’s bed, half-dreaming, with her ghost haunting him at the window. Then it  jumps to the moment when Linton is delivered by the dying Edgar Linton to Heathcliff at the Heights. While the beginning was done out of sequence, I knew right off the bat what they were doing. But I rather they kept Lockwood as an outsider to witness and unfold the mystery of this remote household of angry, unhappy people. Suffice, the state of this household is enough to grab hold of you and make you want to know more. How on earth can these people be so wretched? Without Lockwood, Nelly Dean (Sarah Lancashire) plays a very minimal role here. This is not a bad thing since she kinda sucks!

The bulk of this movie focuses on Heathcliff and Catherine, played by Tom Hardy and Charlotte Riley. This pair has great chemistry with some authentic accents. Much of the success of this film is spectacularly with Tom Hardy as Heathcliff. Tom portrays Heathcliff in a way that no other actor has been able to capture. He manages to be dangerous, menacing, vulnerable, passionate, and intelligent, making the part very much his own (he’s gorgeous to boot.)  Tom’s interpretation is spot on and is exactly what I like to see. He plays his tranformation from stable boy-weathy gentlemen-madman with ease. Charlotte Riley is from northern England and has a Yorkshire accent. I do like her portayal of a natural tomboyish Catherine, though no actress has completely nailed this role for me. And call me picky if you must, I think she looks too plain for the part. She conveys little emotions and the iconic “I am Heathcliff” scene was a let down (I prefer Juliet Binoche in this scene better.) 

It’s too bad they remove much of the violence from the book to make the two main characters more likeable. In this day and age who wouldn’t be upset to see Heathcliff hangs a pet dog or beats his wife and kid? What makes us more sympathetic towards Heathcliff is how they show Hindley, the rotten brother, destroyed himself and the people around him. He is a major douchebag in this film and was brilliantly played by Burn Gorman. There is an actual shirt off, hit-with-the-lash floggy scene. I think the “love scene” with Heathcliff and Isabella (Rosalind Halstead) is incredibly well done. He’s so gentle with her when they made love for the first time, then when she tries to kiss him but he coldly tells her, “Don’t look at me.” Whoa! It is so obvious that he is making love to Cathy in his mind!

The music in this version is absolutely beautiful and is very unique, with mostly guitars, drums, and flutes. The final scene when the haunted Heathcliff is walking with a peaceful countenance is very touching and bittersweet–one of my favorite scenes. 

The rest of the cast didn’t excite me and I didn’t particularly care for. The setting and asthetics of this film isn’t my favorite, which is probably a budget issue. The dresses are plain looking and seems all wrong! Why is first generation wearing empire style dresses while the second generation wearing 1770’s gowns? We all know Catherine is already dead before 1801 when Lockwood arrives but her tomb says 1805-1830! Why change this? The Heights in this version looks fine, with its deep narrow windows, stone walls, and ornate carvings, but the Grange is not what I’d imagined. The Grange is described in the text as:

“…beautiful– a splendid place, carpeted in crimson, with crimson chairs and tables, and a pure white ceiling bordered by gold, a shower of glass-drops hanging in silver chains in the centre, and shimmering with little soft tapers.” 

I think the Grange in this version is too pale and airy or stale looking, though contrasting The Heights greatly. Overall, this is a fabulous movie! I’ve seen it many, many, many times already! 🙂

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Rating: ☆☆☆1/2

Running time: 114 mins, Genre: Gothic Film

Yes, the age discrepancy irks me big time. Heathcliff (Robert Cavanah) and Catherine (Orla Brady) look a bit silly prancing around the moors like children when they look like 40 year olds! Suffice, their performance is pretty good and there is good chemistry between the two. This Heathcliff isn’t handsome and seems wimpy in size, but he has good stage presence and is emotionally charged. He plays with a fair balance of angst and aggression, though his tranformation from farm boy-to gentlemen-to madman was almost non-existence. I find Ralph Fiennes’s Heathcliff much more mysterious and vulnerable. Oyla Brady has unsual beauty and looks good for her age. She plays a strong and impudent Catherine, but she seems to lack the spirit of the charater; she’s suppose to be more immature, vivacious, and spoiled. And Nelly (Polly Heminway), who suppose to be Hindley’s age, is too old for the part, though I do like her.
Now that the age issue out of the way, the rest of the cast is brilliant and young Catherine is adorable. Overall I think this television adaptation is excellent and follows closely to the novel, even giving us dialogue straight from the text. Yay! The aesthetics of this film is beautiful; I love the costumes & dresses, cinematography, Yorkshire accents, and gothic feel. This film comes very close to what I’d like to see. It begins in normal fashion: Lockwood arriving at the Heights in bad weather and briefly has an altercation with the dogs, stays the night, and sees Catherine’s ghost. The haunting of Catherine throughout the film was rendered nicely, given it’s budget. I especially like the grave scenes. Yes gross, but heartbreaking and that’s one scary-ass corpse.

My favorite part of this film is the love story of the younger generation, which was portrayed very well by Sarah Smart (Cathy Jr) and Matthew Macfadyen (Hareton). My favorite Hareton and Cathy Jr. ever. I love Macfadyen’s portrayal of Hareton – his gentle expressions, deep voice, and careful speech – he didn’t come off dumb at all.  Sarah Smart looks and breathes the part:

 “slender, and apparently scarely past girlhood: an admirable form, and the most exquisite little face that I have ever had the pleasure of beholding: small features, very fair, flaxen ringlets, or rather golden, hanging loose on her delicate neck…”

Most of the great scenes in the book are done well and even a few details from the book that were added that isn’t in the other versions, such as Heathcliff tying up Isabelle’s dog and a rough “love scene” between Heathcliff and Isabella, where he semi-raped her! Poor naive Isabella. What I’d like to see more of is the sibling riveries between Hindley and Heathcliff; Hindley just didn’t seem all that menacing here. In this version, I love the setting at the Grange, it is warm, posh, and practically laced with gold but the Heights is a bit shabby and actually looks like a farmhouse. It lacks the cool architectural features from the text:

“…narrow windows are deeply set in the wall, and the corners defended with large jutting stones…grotesque carving lavished over the front, and especially about the principal door; above which, among a wilderness of crumbling griffins and shameless little boys.”

Oh wuthever, no big deal. The final scene here is much more impressive than other versions, with Heathcliff lying dead and looking at Cathy’s portrait.

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Recommended: ☆☆☆☆☆

I indulge myself in dramatic, gothic-novels. Often they are a bit oddball and silly, but this is a remarkable piece. This is where the whole party started; if gothic romance has footsteps, they’d lead you back here.

Now why did my high school teacher assigned us to read Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre when her sister has written this masterpiece? I wish I read this book sooner! Wuthering Heights is way better and way more interesting. If I didn’t know they were sisters, I would have never guessed by simply reading their novels. They have quite different writing styles and themes. What glorious of a writer Emily Brontë was! Her use of atmosphere, natural settings, and mood of people is so poetic, unique, and powerful. I never felt such sadness that the author had only written one book! Unlike her sister Charlotte who created a likeable strong character in Jane Eyre, Emily had no fear to create in Wuthering Heights a cast of characters that are almost impossible to like. This book proves you can like a book without liking any of its characters.  

Emily’s characters are darkly wild people, with twisted desires and savage minds, living in the middle of nowhere on the haunting moors with miserable weather. They are some of the most strongly-drawn characters in literature and the level of passionate intensity in them, I think, has not yet been equaled. I love the way the story was told. I felt like I was Mr. Lockwood wrapped in a blanket with the moors in view and the howling winds at the window with Nelly keeping me company by telling me this sickly fascinating story. From the very first, to the very last page, you’re enshrouded in the turmoil of their wretched lives: seduction, revenge, missing person, people dropping like flies, murdered puppies, digging up old lover’s grave, kidnap, moors, roars…it makes you wonder what crazy shit had Brontë been smoking? And goddamn do I love it. But read Wuthering Heights slowly, read it at night, and be prepared to enter a world more vivid, more intense than any other put into writing.

I’m not sure how I got this idea, but I always thought Wuthering Heights is an angel-playing-harp love story. The book cover is adorned with two people embracing Gone with the Wind-style on the windy moors. But Catherine and Heathcliff’s love story is not a happy one. Such that, some people won’t connect them to “romance”, though it is practically seeped into every page of this book. It’s not in the way romanticism is viewed generally. It’s a truthful story of power, wealth, corrupted passion, and romantic souls. The story masks the author’s intense feelings and unorthodox attitudes towards the sophisticated Victorian society.

Heathcliff is, frankly, a crook of the worst sort but he is sometimes romanticized as a victim. I cannot outline here all of the evil things he did over the course of the story without giving too much away. He’s an asshole, a stalker, and a sociopath–and he knows it! As he says of Isabella, the girl he marries and beats up:

“She abandoned them under a delusion…picturing in me a hero of romance, and expecting unlimited indulgences from my chivalrous devotion. I can hardly regard her in the light of a rational creature, so obstinately has she persisted in forming a fabulous notion of my character, and acting on the false impression she has cherished.”

Hear that, Heathcliff fangirls? Even he thinks you’re all morons for liking him. Now, I can’t say I hate him because part of me do sympathize with his adversity and can understand why he is so obsessed and why his obsession led to a hardness and a madness of mind and morals. Heck, I even shed a tear after Catherine died just because Heathcliff wished himself to be haunted by her.

“Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you!… I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!”

That is love, my dears. But do I need that kind of passion? Hell no. Imagine your parents’ reactions when you bring home a Heathcliff or a Mr. Rochester? Seriously, the Bronte sisters have bad taste in men! Catherine, the one that Heathcliff lives and dies for, ruins everyone’s lives for, she doesn’t get my sympathy. She’s a spoiled, selfish, and an unfeeling bitch every moment she was present in the story. She is in deep love with the poor boy Heathcliff, but she flirts with a wealthy boy Edgar, whose social status satisfies her unexpressed need for external acceptance. She wants her cake and eats it too!

Hate them? Understandable, I suppose. I came to the conclusion that you really weren’t intended to like either Catherine or Heathcliff because I feel their story is not the love story we are supposed to champion and idolize. Even if they would end up together they would tear each other apart anyway. But at the end there is a sliver of hope, a touch of something pure, a love which is unsoiled. And this, I believe, is the true romance of the book. Cathy Jr and Hareton’s relationship (second generation) is the one we should all applaud and secretly yearn for as they endured and persevered where Catherine and Heathcliff crumbled.

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