Inseparable as children, Cathy and Heathcliffs devotion to each other grows into a profound and dangerous passion as they become adults. The fates seem to conspire to force them apart, but nothing can break the bond between them that reaches beyond accepted human behaviour. When Cathy dies during childbirth, Heathcliffs unfathomable heartbreak is released in monumental, vengeful anger. But vengeance brings him little satisfaction and it is only when Cathys ghost appears to him that he begins to sense the resolution that he craves. He longs for the death that will finally reunite him with his beloved Cathy.
This acclaimed adaptation of Brontes heart-wrenching novel takes a fresh approach to the story, adhering closely to the spirit of the original text. This production tells the whole story, from cradle to beyond the grave, including the dark and supernatural forces which drive the central characters to their doom.
As teacher of English literature to adolescents with the attention span of gnats, I'm always delighted to find a reasonably faithful adaptation of a "classic" novel. If you can sit the little darlings down in front of a screen and let them "see" the story, you can engage their interest much more readily.
I hesitated to show them either the 1939 Olivier version or the 1970's one with Timothy Dalton - not because they're bad films (they're not - Dalton's Heathcliff, in particular, was excellent) but because they both stopped half way through the book.
I rented a copy of the 1992 Fiennes/Binoche version but found it lacking in several departments. I had virtually written this one off without a thought until I saw the almost universally complimentary reviews of it on Amazon. All I can do is add my voice.
Inasmuch as it is possible to be faithful to such a complex work, this film manages it. There are omissions and elisions, of course - but all necessary and understandable when someone is trying to cram a lengthy book into two hours. Even their filling in of the blanks is acceptable, and makes the story slightly easier to follow.
The performances are all excellent. I had my doubts to begin with about Robert Cavanah's Heathcliff, but after a slightly shaky start, he gets to grips with the character. It's a fine, intelligent and thoughtful performance that never becomes hammy and never loses sight of the man beneath the monster. At the same time, he doesn't underplay his casual brutality, either. Orla Brady is a near perfect Catherine - beautiful, wilful and fatally flawed, Crispin Bonham Carter succeeds in making Edgar Linton humane instead of weak, Ian Shaw engages your sympathy with his slide into degradation as Hindley and the youngsters - Sarah Smart and Matthew McFadyen - give some life to the easily overlooked second generation.
You could criticise the age of the main players - they are strictly too old to play the major protagonists - but for that the blame lies firmly with Emily Bronte. She made Catherine and Heathcliff so young at the beginning of the main action, that performers the right age could possibly have the necessary emotional range. They are like Juliet - you are not old enough to play them until you are TOO old!
A quick word of praise for the locations and music - the former authentically grubby, windswept and wild, the latter bleakly romantic.
A word of warning if you are considering buying this for a youngster - Wuthering Heights is a dark, violent novel and this is a dark and violent film. It pulls few punches and could disturb younger viewers.
Other than that, I wholeheartedly recommend it.
Oh - and my pupils? - it did the trick. We had an animated discussion after watching it, and thereafter they were MUCH more interested in the novel itself.
Robert Cavanah does a quite remarkable job as Heathcliff - bringing him to the edge of psychosis without ever tumbling over into melodrama. Orla Brady is tremendous as Catherine - for the first time ever in a screen adaptation, we begin to understand what it was about her that made her so irresistible to two totally different men. In the unforgiving role of Edgar Linton, Crispin Bonham-Carter more than holds his own, bringing out the man's decency and confusion in the face of a situation he stands no chance of controlling.
In the supporting cast, there isn't a wrong note anywhere, with a particularly notable performance from Polly Hemingway as Nelly Dean - the cement that holds the whole story together. It's good, too, to see Joseph reinstated as an important minor character.
The younger generation - played by Matthew MacFadyen and Sarah Smart - don't disgrace themselves in roles that could easily have been overshadowed by the main players. Several stars, too, to Ian Shaw's Hindley - moving convincingly from tormentor to tormented and taking our sympathies with him.
The North Yorkshire scenery is authentic, the music (by Warren Bennett - his first major piece with a full orchestra) hauntingly beautiful and exactly right.
Considering that a long novel has been telescoped into two hours, remarkably little is missing from the narrative. It stays faithful to its original both in form and spirit and is easily the best version to date.
There are a considerable number of carefully considered reviews of Wuthering Heights under the VHS listing. I would encourage anyone interested in this production to read those. They are almost unanimously excellent.
It not only tells the whole story - it tells it WELL. It holds your interest, cutting out relatively little from the original and keeping all the main characters and events.
Robert Cavanah and Orla Brady were entirely new names to me but both acquit themselves supremely well. The supporting cast is also excellent - Crispin Bonham Carter (the brother of Helena, I presume) does credit to Edgar, Ian Shaw is pitch-perfect as Hindley and Polly Hemingway, always reliable, turns in a gem of a performance as Nelly. Matthew MacFadyen's Hareton is just the right mix of surly and sweet and the pretty girl who plays the younger Catherine (Sarah Smart, I think) tackles an awkward role well.
I would recommend this to anyone - but especially to anyone who needs a study aid for the novel.
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