November : Reviewing Wuthering Heights Adaptations

Introduction:

The Snottor has been indulging in film. Novembers can be a gloomy time in the garden; excessive downpour alternating with chilly frosts does little for the benefit of the poor misguided daffodil shoots, somehow tricked into thinking it’s already Spring. The Snottor refuses to be down-hearted by the cycles of life, unlike the affected Phlox, but he does find some time on his hands. Thus, indulgence. 

About these Adaptations:

In this solemn article, The Snottor will be reviewing two titles. First: the 2009 Masterpiece Theater adaptation of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, and Second: the 2011 Andrea Arnold adaptation. He shall withhold not one drip of his long-percolated acidity, yet no sparkle of his hard-earned praise. 

1: 2009 Masterpiece Theater Wuthering Heights:

The Snottor had done his research beforehand; dutifully learned about the many different adaptations out there, weighed the pros and cons, when the lusty Phlox grabbed the first two she saw on the library shelves (her fiery desire for art in all its forms sometimes dulls her sense of judgement and self-restraint, The Snottor sorrows to inform the reader) and eagerly brought them home for him, like a kitten proudly displaying her revoltingly dead present for her mistress.

The Snottor watched the Masterpiece Theater version first. He had heard little of it in others’ reviews and expected less; although the disk was horribly scratched and malfunctioned the whole way through (luckily The Snottor knew the story very well and was able to maturely handle the intermittently skipped one-third of the film), he was blown away. Yes, The Snottor was blown away, and, as the Phlox sagely observed, this is not something to be taken lightly.

What The Snottor Liked

Very good acting throughout, he approved most of the fact that the fine people behind this adaptation kept the whole story, a rare phenomenon in the world of Wuthering Heights adaptations were most seem to want to focus on the forbidden-love aspect and not the complete complexity of Brontë’s work. The ending in particular was spectacular, and re-created the haunting, rushed feeling of the end of the book (the whole Heathcliff’s death part), and the way the film-makers chose to end it with the last shot (no spoilers), The Snottor thought true to the book yet a wonderful creative choice. 

What The Snottor Did Not Like

If he had directed it, The Snottor would have given all the sub-characters more attention. He felt that Edgar was portrayed almost as an antagonist, and certainly not as the complex, amazing character he is; Hareton didn’t have enough character development—he was sort of the end-Hareton the whole time; Nelly was more in the background than Emily Brontë treated her, and The Snottor would definitely give more time to her sibling/crush relationship to Hindley and foster-mother relationship to Hareton. He wishes the director would have really delved into each character as a the full person they were in the book more.

Overall

This was The Snottor’s favorite of the two, and definitely one he will re-watch (but hopefully with a different, non-scratched disk). The positives certainly out-weighed the negatives, and it was a fabulously moving piece of cinema that he highly recommends. It kept his heart racing (in the best kind of way) the whole time, and really made him (and the excitable Phlox) feel the drama of being alive. 

2: Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights:

This was the second The Snottor watched. Arnold has a background in filming modern-day situations, particularly focusing on Realism in her film-making and on the lives of lower-class inhabitants of Britain, inspired by her own background. She intentionally cast inexperienced actors in most of the key roles, and shot the film with the intention of shaking up people’s expectations of costume-dramas and of Wuthering Heights. She used up-close filming and seemed to be highly focused on aestheticism throughout, keeping the music to a minimum and focusing on the sounds of nature. 

What The Snottor Liked

It was definitely a very nice composition, art-wise. The choice of inexperienced actors was something The Snottor thought turned out tremendously, as young Cathy, young Heathcliff, and adult Heathcliff (all first-timers) were fabulous. Young Heathcliff especially, played by Solomon Glave, was incredible. His performance was charged by his frequent silence, and the intensity in his eyes was palpable; Arnold’s adaptation was very Heathcliff-centric, showing him as the protagonist and exploring how he became the man he was, and in this goal she certainly succeeded, helped not a little by Glave’s intensely real, highly sympathetic performance. The Phlox, who has been known to indulge in self-pity and can feel quite the social outcast, was painfully moved by his performance, which she identified with too intensely for her liking. The Snottor, although dubious of such highly-affected people, did think it really did breathe a wonderful life into the so often misunderstood, demonized, removed symbol of masculinity, or object of romantic desire, Heathcliff. 

Arnold’s film style also had some positives. The Snottor and the Phlox both quite admired Arnold’s use of silence, and of listening to the sounds of nature; through these Heathcliff and Cathy’s early relationship was quite beautifully portrayed.

What The Snottor Did Not Like

The second half of the film wasn’t as good; adult Cathy really didn’t do it for him or for the Phlox, and she and adult Heathcliff had zero chemistry. Nelly was played by a very talented young lady but was pushed, like the Masterpiece Nelly, to the background, which was disappointing. The Phlox pipes up that she really had a problem with the animal cruelty, a view she shares with many viewers; Heathcliff hangs a defenseless and sweet spaniel, and Hareton hangs a litter of puppies. Both these things happened in the book, but in the book, Nelly saves all of them; in the movie this is not so. The sensitive Phlox feels particularly for the poor dogs who were clearly upset and in discomfort during these scenes, even if they walked away ultimately unscathed, and found these moments to be completely unnecessary. 

Overall 

The Snottor, as did most viewers of this version, is left with mixed feelings. This is the kind of art that leaves one feeling a little sick afterwards; everything very unconsummated, very uncomfortable, rather painfully listless and without an answer. The Snottor feels life can be like this enough that he prefers not to have a work of film emotionally manipulate him in such a way, but that is only a personal opinion.

Next on his watch-list? An adaptation in Japanese, Arashi ga Oka, set in Medieval Japan and reportedly a great adaptation that is very true to the spirit of the novel. What’s your favorite Wuthering Heights adaptation? 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.