The first episode of Wuthering Heights 2009 has been broadcast in the US and the first reactions are beginning to be published:
The Little Professor:
I've mentioned before that while Jane Eyre has generated more TV and film adaptations than anyone would want to sit through, it is not really an adaptation-friendly novel: stripped away from Jane's voice, many of the events lose their force or, sometimes, become downright silly (the telepathy and the shattered tree being the two most notorious examples), and the novel's Gothic overtones call for something other than cinematic realism. But Wuthering Heights takes these problems and multiplies them. We have two unreliable narrators, only three settings (Wuthering Heights, Thrushcross Grange, the moors), and some of the most unpleasant protagonists in all of Victorian literature. To make things worse, pop culture has turned Cathy's and Heathcliff's relationship into an accumulation of romance tropes, and adaptations frequently engage with the romance-ified tradition about the novel--not the novel itself. (When a couple of my students did oral presentations about WH adaptations, they were shocked to discover just how often film scripts translated the couple into the most cliched of romance conventions.)Welcome to the Pond:
So far, this newest adaptation is making some interesting choices. Peter Bowker, who wrote the script, faces the unreliable narrator problem head on: he eliminates Lockwood altogether and turns Nelly Dean into a relatively peripheral figure, but he uses the novel's unreliability to his own advantage by reworking Heathcliff. (There's also a good moment in which a scene that causes eye-rolling among many of my students--Heathcliff digs up Cathy and discovers that she hasn't decomposed!--turns out to be Heathcliff's hallucination. Of course, the sight of Heathcliff cuddling Cathy's skeleton may cause some viewers some dismay.) The script dislocates the viewer by beginning in medias res, with Linton Heathcliff (rather older than he ought to be?) departing the Grange for the Heights--I wondered briefly if I had missed the first half. This being the twenty-first century and sex, apparently, being a must, the novel's passing hints that Heathcliff is Mr. Earnshaw's illegitimate child become overt here, making it far more likely that Heathcliff's love for Cathy is incestuous. Which does not help matters any when Heathcliff and Cathy, er, get it on while out on the moors. (Incidentally, everyone is aged up in this adaptation, not just Linton H.--Cathy enters Thrushcross Grange for the first time as an adult.) At the same time, it's clear that Heathcliff, to put none too fine a point on it, is...a horrifying excuse for a human being. He gloats when Hindley's wife dies in childbirth, wanders around uttering dire imprecations against all and sundry, and, most importantly, rejects Cathy when she comes back from Thrushcross Grange; in the novel, Cathy's aversion to his dirtiness is the first sign that their relationship has altered. Under the circumstances, Cathy's decision to marry Edgar Linton is less Tragic Bad Planning and more Basic Common Sense. Heathcliff spends this adaptation in a state of self-willed self-destruct, even though characters like Hindley treat him horribly. Far from being a departure from the novel's themes, this take on Heathcliff's character addresses Bronte's interest in the question of nature vs. nurture. So far, nature seems to be winning.
The first 15 minutes of the movie left me confused - I thought I had stumbled onto the second part instead of the advertised first part! As it turns out, I was indeed watching the first part of the movie. The filmmakers deviated a great deal in the narrative, beginning the story at Linton Heathcliff's arrival. Young Cathy discovers Wuthering Heights and Uncle Heathcliff, and also discovers that her mother used to live there. Nelly tells her the story, and this is where the real story begins. No, we do not get to see Mr. Lockwood. Perhaps this shortens the story, but I prefer the story told by the novel.The Nobody Girl: (beware, strong language)
This version of the tale was filmed in Yorkshire, making everything truly authentic. The moors look just as I've imagined them. Wuthering Heights itself looks fine, almost a house that looks like Heathcliff. Of course, it's not the version I have in my mind, but what version could be?
The actors are, for the most part, wonderful. They've picked a very good actress for Cathy Earnshaw named Charlotte Riley. She's appropriately gorgeous and has what sounds like an accurate accent. I think she could be a bit more tempestuous as she's written in the novel, but Ms. Riley will charm you just as Cathy charms Heathcliff. Nelly is portrayed well, too. This verion's Edgar Linton (Andrew Lincoln) is gentlemanly, although perhaps not as weak as portrayed in the novel.
And what of Heathcliff? Tom Hardy is a very good choice. He has the dark hair and handsome good looks, and portrays Heathcliff as rugged, spiteful, manipulative and cruel, just as he should be. If your Heathcliff does not work, your Wuthering Heights does not work, and this Heathcliff works very well.
One more thing to mention - the characters in the film are not as isolated as those in the novel. We see them at church, we see them at market, and we see them in the company of others. In the novel, the Lintons and Earnshaws have very little interaction with the outside world, at least in the scenes that are written. In the novel, most all outside interactions take place "off-page" and out of sight.
I'm anxious to see the second part, and to find out how the filmmakers wrap up the narrative.
The first half of the new version of Wuthering Heights on Masterpiece Theatre isn’t bad. I haven’t read the book in a very long time, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. I prefer the more romantic and upbeat Charlotte Brontë over ol’ misery guts Emily Brontë. I’ve always been able to better identify with Charlotte’s most famous characters, such as Jane Eyre and Lucy Snowe. I always thought Emily’s characters in Wuthering Heights were a lot of assholes and fucking crybabies. I read Wuthering Heights with a sense of relief that all of the characters seemed to be tightly knit into an isolated ball out on the moors of northern England. That way, they could just fuck each other into oblivion, ultimately destroying themselves, and doing the rest of the world a huge fucking favor. Seriously, I fucking hate these people.Knightleyemma's Blog:
But tonight? I was totally rooting for Heathcliff. I don’t know if it’s the actor who’s playing him or what, but Heathcliff is the motherfucking MAN. Swarthy good looks, brute strength, and loads of sass. And I like his style. What better way to deal with people who have fucked you over and toyed with your emotions? Fuck ‘em over right back.
It seems Heathcliff has appealed to me at a very timely and appropriate moment in my life.
Tom is doing a good job with Heathcliff; my mom agrees. She said “he’s very handsome.” I’d say his looks are unusual (for a leading man). This can be an asset for Heathcliff; his origins are mysterious. Maybe his real parents were gypsies? The voice and eyes stand out to me.anonymous on BrontëBlog:
Tom Hardy has a very interesting face, whenever you can see it through the fall of hair. I like his interpretation of the role, such a mix of wicked and pathetic. No doubt, Hardy's career in being boosted by producing another revised and modernizedone day i am going to grow wings: (beware, strong language)
film of WH.
The new adaptation of Wuthering Heights is really good. And by really good, I mean I think the actor playing Heathcliff is hot. Rarely has being fucked in the head looked so pretty. Generally, the story is not one of my favorites (I prefer Jane Eyre and Jane Austen) as I think all the characters are assholes, but at least in the tv version I am enjoying the story for the twisted psychodrama that it is.Cageyness:
God this story still makes me ill. An interesting version though.fleurfairy (on imdb board):
In my opinion, this is the best production to come on Masterpiece since Jane Eyre 2006. You could cut the sexual tension between Heathcliff and Cathy with a knife. And that is basically the crux of the story. Love and passion-fueled jealousy. Flawless acting by Tom Hardy who is a *very* dark and angry Heathcliff. No offense to Olivier version which is a classic in its own right, but this surpasses it in every respect. The cinematography, the score, the costumes, everything is perfection. I wait with eager anticipation for Part 2 next Sunday!!luthientinuviel6 (on imdb board)
I am in agreement about this version of Wuthering Heights surpassing any others I have seen including Olivier's and Fiennes'. It was brilliant with a relatively unknown cast. Tom Hardy, I hope, will make good on the promise he shows in this film and takes every opportunity that arises from this. I wanted to emphasize the score being tailored to the mood and Heathcliff's theme is particularly haunting and evocative.fys on C19 board
The acting was indeed impressing, but very much like the review, I didn't want to take Heathcliff's side- portrayed brilliantly, though, by Tom Hardy. He really comes of as a being almost supernatural, very creepy; Hardy's Heathcliff distractedly reminded me of Snape!!Not Unseldom Drastic:
Only Heathcliff still makes me want to beat him over the head with a shoe. At least Guppy from Bleak House is in it, though in a brutish role that inspires little delight. And at least Cathy Earnshaw has a very interesting wardrobe: chartreuse and red and deep, dark green. How often do you see those kinds of colors on a period heroine? At the same time?Mostly Negative:
After watching Masterpiece Classic’s Wuthering Heights, I have come to the conclusion that there would be no tragic story if some early basic parenting skills had been applied in Brontë’s story. Heathcliff and Cathy are every parent’s nightmare. Even though they are wild, undisciplined and disrespectful in the novel, this version of the tragic couple offers the most uncivilized behavior in any screen adaptation yet. In director Coky Giedroyc’s eyes, they are wild beastly things digging up graves and tearing at each other’s souls while leaving a wide wake of destruction. What would Jo Frost the Supernanny do with these out of control children? She would instruct the parent which in this case is the director who is an adult, and should have known better.Treasures for Kindred Spirits:
In this new television mini-series of Emily Brontë’s dark and contemplative novel, director Giedroyc’s viewpoint is felt immediately as the opening credits skim past us from the low perspective of a galloping beast across the Yorkshire moors and into Wuthering Heights, the home of its prey, Heathcliff. The director is going for pure animal behavior from the get go, and this theme permeates throughout the entire production, corrupting youth, destroying lives, eliminating social order, and debasing love beyond recognition. If Brontë’s story of two childhood lovers torn between desire and revenge is considered a tragic romance, this adaptation has turned it into a Gothic novel. The only element lacking in qualification is the castle dungeon which viewers can substitute Wuthering Heights Manor for since it is indeed a torture chamber for all who enter.
Pushing the macabre, the ghoulish and the torrid elements of Brontë’s story to the forefront has changed the emphasis. The love story between Cathy (Charlotte Riley) and Heathcliff (Tom Hardy) is never quite believable. They tear at each other like wild beasts and I never understand Cathy’s attraction to him. If these are two souls destined to be bound to each other for eternity, why are they so cruel? Who would want to be with someone that causes them so much pain? Does the director want us to believe that their love is so compelling that nothing else matters? In this version when Cathy exclaims “I am Heathcliff” in the famous self actualizing moment from the novel, my reaction was eeuw!
The production does have a few merits. It is very pleasant to look at sometimes, and even though I do not agree with the characterizations of the hero and heroine, newcomer Charlotte Riley as Cathy is appealing and Tom Hardy as Heathcliff is forceful in the role. If last week’s conclusion of Tess of the d’Urberville’s didn’t send you over the edge of despair, this adaptation may just do the trick with pure foolery. Call me an idealistic sap, but I prefer the 1939 romanticized version directed by William Wyler staring Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon in a heartbeat. Director Coky Giedroyc’s Cathy and Heathcliff just need is a good spankin’. (Laurel Ann)
(...) And then there's Heathcliff (Tom Hardy). I am surprised by Tom Hardy. He surprised me. Somehow he manages to be brooding, passionate, intelligent, rough, deep, cruel...and still have a certain honesty...a certain vulnerability about his person. It's extraordinary. I've never seen anything like it. There is no way I could have anticipated it. The Heathcliff in my mind is very akin to Tom Hardy's Heathcliff. They share the same memorable intensity, the same obsessive devotion. I seriously believe in Tom Hardy's love for his Cathy...it's almost palpable...his torture in her rejection, his bitterness. He looks the part too, which means that he has a rugged countenance with handsome, proud features. His interpretation is exactly what I like to see. Fascinating in an unsettling way. He gets Heathcliff. Granted, about 65% of his lines are not even from Wuthering Heights the book, but despite the extreme artistic license this version has taken with the story and characters, Tom Hardy remains a true Heathcliff. Possibly a definitive one, if he wasn't surrounded by such plagiarism.Top02001 (on imdb board):
Alright, Cathy (Charlotte Riley). No. Just no. At first, I was pleased because of her Northern accent...it intrigued me that they decided to put that little twist in there. But as soon as I got past her accent (within the first 20 seconds), I became greatly worried. This Cathy is not my Cathy. She is not willful, selfish, strong, passionate, cruel, wicked, wild, manipulative...she seems more confused and flirtatious than greedy and independent. Next to Tom Hardy, she seems a weak echo of what Cathy ought to be. We all know Cathy is irrepressible and irresistable. We hate to love her. But Charlotte Riley's Cathy is kind of boring and doesn't make much sense. I didn't like her very much. I greatly missed Cathy's flares of temper. Charlotte was pretty sedate, and I simply didn't believe her connection with Heathcliff.
The way the scenes succeeded eachother became a little muddled at times, and not as effective as how they were originally written. Basically, all the important parts were either condensed, diluted, or cut...and all the inconsequential, trivial parts were expanded and played out fully. I repeated "No" very quietly to myself throughout, a distinct disagreement with what they were doing. Everything would have worked if they hadn't tampered with it so...tried to modernize it...or be artistically different. Now's not the time to ask, "What if?" It's the time to stick doggedly true to the book. Whenever people stay true, it always ends up well. But stray from the book, "improve" upon the book....and it almost never works. (...) (lace_dreams)
I also didn't like the order of the film. I felt that the removal of the stranger was taking out a huge part of the book that is in my opinion needed.anonymous on BrontëBlog:
Also, I felt that the "I Am Heathcliff" speech was delivered weakly. Why didn't Heathcliff overhear her talk about Edgar? Why didn't we get to see Cathy's reaction to him leaving her? I felt like they took out some of the emotions and power of the story, as well as a lot of the supernatural elements (so far), and tried to focus more on the sex part. It was too modernized in my opinion, and the narrative style was weak, disjointed, and didn't use the brilliant set up Emily Bronte left for telling the story.
The latest manifestation of Wuthering Heights has managed to be so totally devoid of Emily Bronte that it is astounding. What book was being referenced for this misbegotten mash-up on the moors? Not only was it bad, it was boring. And that is totally unforgivable. Somewhere, Emily is laughing.coriandersea:
Awful. and that hardy guy is so not a good heathcliff. where the hell is the actual acting? he's horribly deadpan and wooden and only knows one expression - pout. no.And this last one which, although positive, comes from someone that considers Wuthering Heights weak literature and, from all possible adjectives: *corny*!!. From Slate:
There are two basic ways to regard the source material and its histrionic melodrama. If you are Virginia Woolf, you ask, "How ... can there be truth or insight or the finer shades of emotion in men and women who so little resemble what we have seen ourselves?" before deciding that, impossible a character as Heathcliff surely is, "no boy in literature has a more vivid existence than his." If you are not, perhaps you ask the same question and then follow the natural course of action and throw the book across the room. Gide sobbed over it; others simply weep at its moody supernaturalism and ponderous gloom; and the modest brilliance of this most recent Wuthering Heights is to entertain both of these camps.Categories: Movies-DVD-TV, Wuthering Heights
The opening credits rolls as the camera races through the tall grass at a demonic trot, something of a hell-hound's view. It creeps into Heathcliff's house and his bedroom and his head room, where visions of the love he lost flash past. Soon the narrative, more economical and less terribly patient than the novel, finds the hero-villain running into the daughter of his beloved by daylight. She spends 10 minutes or so learning that her late mother was once involved with this glamorously unpleasant figure, and then he—in what is maybe a dream sequence, though it scarcely matters—pries open Catherine's coffin and cuddles with her corpse, and we hop into the main story from there.
Playing the adult Heathcliff, actor Tom Hardy looks like rock star Jack White auditioning for a Tim Burton film and behaves as if directed to discover synonyms for scowl, glower, and skulk unknown to Roget. He is a talented ham, and this is brooding you can use, the anti-heroic centerpiece of a crackling experience. It is common to invoke Classics Illustrated to insult literary adaptations that degrade their sources, but Wuthering Heights is corny to its core, and Masterpiece's comic-bookish treatment of it is actually elevating. One hears stories about readers who finish bingeing on Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series and find themselves jonesing for something of the same potency—and they go ripping through their roommates' bookshelves to see if there's a hit of Heights up there. (Bella Swan, the heroine of Meyer's vampire novels, is a big fan.) Stylizing Brontë's broad strokes, the creators of this latest Wuthering Heights turn weak literature into muscular pop and contrive something perfectly suited to that very audience of Twilight-zoners. (Troy Patterson)