January 26, 2009

Wuthering Heights on PBS: My Thoughts

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The last two Sunday's I've been glued to the tube as I watched the latest version of Wuthering Heights. This edition stars Tom Hardy as Heathcliff and Charlotte Riley as Catherine Earnshaw. When I began two weeks ago, the story started somewhere near the end of the novel. Heathcliff forces Catherine Linton (Cathy & Edgar's child) to marry his son by Edgar's sister Isabella, Linton. Are you following me? Yes, it sounds an episode of Jerry Springer but the story is over 150 years old. Anyway, at first I was confused, and where was Lockwood, the narrator? This film took a totally different route, tossing out Lockwood and demoting Nelly to a minor character.

The story then turns into a flashback. Heathcliff is brought home by Mr Earnshaw. The film takes on the rumours started ages ago by critics head on: was Heathcliff Mr Earnshaw's illegitimate son? (Okay, now that's Jerry Springer!) They seem to look it in the face and dismiss it. Mr Earnshaw grumbles that a man can't do a good deed without him being gosssiped about.

Cathy to my mind just wasn't nasty enough, neither was Heathcliff. He's a real puppy-kicker in the novel, where his cruelty seems to be toned down for the film. Even Cathy Junior was a more of snotty brat in the book. She was terrible to Hareton when she first arrives at Wuthering Heights. You can't blame her, really. What I love about the book is just how awful all the characters are, yet they love passionately. There is plenty of passion in the film, however. I loved the stolen kisses and cavorting in the moors. What else would two wild people with little in the way of morals be doing when alone?

I wasn't quite happy with Heathcliff's end. I prefer his wasting away after spending all his energy on revenge. That was the engine that kept him going, once that was gone his body gave up.

Don't get me wrong. This film is totally worth watching. Tom Hardy was perfect to play the smouldering anti-hero. He looks the part. The chemistry between Tom and Charlotte burned up every scene they had together. Burn Gorman, who I'll always think of as Mr Guppy, made a believable drunken Hindley and Andrew Lincoln played handsome yet useless Edgar well. One of the characters I thought improved greatly over the novel was Isabella (Rosalind Halstead). She had the fire and passion to try and take on Heathcliff, where in the novel she seems more like a Heathcliff groupie.

You can watch Wuthering Heights online on PBS Masterpiece website.

15 comments :

  1. Hi, Chris! Thanks for the blog award!

    I haven't been watching Masterpiece Theater lately, because I'm not a fan of either Tess or Wuthering Heights. I need a happy ending! It's weird, though, that they aired a dramatization of a novel by Thomas Hardy, then a dramatization of a novel starring Tom Hardy.

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  2. That is so cool that it's online. I recorded the 2nd half last night, but missed the first half. Now... to just find the time to watch it all!

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  3. I loved Guppy (Hindley)! And Edgar Linton is quite attractive in this one--far from the sickly character in the book, but I didn't mind...

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  4. Rob- I guess it can be argued that Wuthering Heights has a happy ending- sort of. Not a pleasant story though. And Tess, uh, yeah, no happy there.

    Suey- I was surprised to see it on there. I think it's a great idea for those who've missed it.

    Laura- Oh yeah, Edgar wasn't too hard on the eyes. ;)

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  5. Good to read your take on it, I started watching last night and got really confused until I realized I'd missed last week's episode (dang!)

    I haven't read the book in so many years I hardly remembered the plot beyond the basic characters and jumping in like this was pretty confusing. I realized why I only read the book once though--because Cathy and Heathcliff are really unloveable characters. They're spoiled and selfish and obviously need to get out of town and see something of the world beyond themselves. So it's funny to read how you say they were toned down :) How much worse could they be??

    Of course, I obviously have forgotten so much since reading it back in high school.

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  6. I didn't even attempt the filmed version after re-reading Wuthering Heights not too long ago. I'd read it in High School - I did not remember them as being such......bad human beings. :)

    Your hooked socks look good!

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  8. You know. I never did understand the way some people go nuts over Wuthering Heights. The people were just downright loathesome to me. Jane Eyre....loved it. Anne's Tenant of Wildfell Hall...loved it.

    Oh well...to each his own, I guess!!

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  9. Stephanie, I didn't like the book until 3rd reading when I was prepared to not like the characters. Then I focused more on the crafts(wo)manship of the writing and story. As I wrote in my own review on the series, you have to take a queer pleasure in people destroying themselves to really get into this book. Once you get to that point, it's amazing, almost liberating. Emily Bronte broke free of almost every "rule" and tradition in the writing of this book--no one is likable, the romance is twisted and bizarre, the characters behave very, very badly (every single one of them). Even though I love Jane Eyre with all my soul, it seems quite trite in comparison with WH.

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  10. Michelle- Oh yeah, they are kittens in comparison to the book.

    Karen- I thought that was an apt visual.

    Carrie- Thanks. I have one done now.

    Stephanie & Laura- I agree with Laura. I hated it the first time I read it, but once I accept that they are all awful, I could enjoy the writing much more. It's like lobster, you have to try it a few times before you know for sure if you love it or hate.

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  11. OK, I've never read the novel, but watched the PBS movie and thought that the characters were pretty unlikeable - now you tell me they are worse in the book? I plan on reading the book one day, since the story line certainly was intriguing!

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  12. Oh, one more thing - I'm sure that it is different in the book, but I just felt that the passionate love between Cathy and Heathcliff was under-developed in the movie and therefore unbelievable. One moment they are kids and the next making out! I think the movie could have used some extra time to develop their love a bit more.

    I watched Tess on PBS and felt that it was really well made.

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  13. I love your comparison btw. the movie and the novel. After I read the novel, I felt as if wild beasts had been at me! They (Heathcliff et al) put the fun in dysfunction, don't they?

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  14. I finally watched the whole movie this weekend. I was saddened that Lockwood was thrown out entirely and I agree that Heathcliff and Cathy were not nearly as nasty as they should have been.

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