wuthering heights – films
Wuthering Heights (1847) by Emily Bronte is a story of strong, violent passions which could only be felt in the environment the writer knew very well: the windy moors , the hills, the endless and inhabited fields. Yorkshire and Haworth in particular were unsanitary and gloomy places, like many others in that period in England, but they were more isolated and the industrial revolution had probably added more darkness to that area. Its inhabitants were as superstitious; the servants used to tell them fantastic stories that fascinated the children’s imagination. The descriptions of the deaths of so many characters can appear an exaggeration because of the normal aversion for physical decay that we feel nowadays. But it must be considered that this novel was written in the Victorian period. Sudden death from typhoid, cholera or other diseases was part of the life for the Victorians and the people were cured at home without medicines to alleviate their pain . Victorian domestic life abounded in drama and suffering.
The book opens when Mr. Lockwood, tenant of Thrushcross Grange, arrives at Wuthering Heights and asks Nelly Dean, the housekeeper, to tell him the story of Heathcliff, Catherine and Hareton, the three inhabitants of the house. A generation has already passed away and most of the characters have already died. Mr. Earnshaw lives in a lonely house in the moors, Wuthering Heights. He has a daughter, Catherine and a son, Hindley. One day he brings back from Liverpool an orphan, Heathcliff. After his father’s death, Hindley, jealous, treats the foundling brutally while, between Cathy and Heathcliff grows a deep understanding . One day, while running across the moors, Heathcliff and Cathy arrive at the Lintons’ house, Trushcross Grange, a beautiful estate in the valley. Edgar Linton falls in love with Catherine and asks her to marry him. She accepts even if she loves Heathcliff because attracted by Edgar’s elegant manners and way of living. Meanwhile Hindley has had a son by his wife Frances who has soon died. Heathcliff escapes and comes back only after three years, mysteriously rich. He has returned to get his revenge. He takes the control of Wuthering Heights treating cruelly Hindley, now drunk and spiritually ill after his wife’s death and persecuting Edgar’s sister, Elisabeth, with whom he marries and a son, Linton.
Besides, his passionate love destroys Cathy’s life that dies leaving Edgar with their daughter, Catherine. Heathcliff, in this way, gets a control on Wuthering Heights and on Trushcross Grange, inherited by his weak son Linton after Edgar’s death. He forces Catherine to marry Linton who is ill and soon dies.
Now Heathcliff has both Catherine’s daughter and Hindley’s son, Hareton, in his power. At this point his lust of revenge has died and he hears the voice of his Catherine calling him from the moors where she is buried and dies. The two remaining victims, Hareton and Catherine, discover to love each other and re-establish peace and joy in the Earnshaw and in the Lintons’s houses.
The novel was first adapted into a film Wuthering Heights in 1939 , directed by William Wyler, screenplay by Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht; starring Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff; Merle Oberon as Cathy and David Niven as Edgar Linton.
Nowadays other versions have been produced in
1970 – directed by Robert Fuest, screenplay by Patrick Tilley; starring Timothy Dalton, Anna Calder-Marshall and Harry Andrews
1978 – a BBC TV series
1992 – directed by Peter Kosminsky, screenplay by Anne Devlin, starring Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche and Simon Shepherd.
2011 – directed by Andrea Arnold, screenplay by Olivia Hetreed, starring James Howson, Kaya Scodellaro and Oliver Milburn.
As to the literary sources, it is not easy to find them. There are several similarities between E. T. A. Hoffman’s The Entail and the particular plot of the novel. Passions and emotional impulses derive from the romantic tradition. Byron’s heroes surely influenced Heathcliff’s character, dark and brooding.
Elements belonging to the Gothic tradition can be found in parts of the novel: the taste for horror, mystery and supernatural forces.
But these are only echoes, literary references that the writer has absorbed in her reading; they are not properly influence derivations from other books. Emily Brontë, unique in her style and in her way of writing, influenced literature after her.