wuthering, wuthering, Wuthering Heights

Finally figured out how to actually embed a video to a post, so voila! Personally I’m not fond of the Kate Bush song, primarily because her voice seems almost a bit shrill. Having finihsed with the novel and seen the 1939 film version I’ve gone back and looked at the lyrics and videos (including the one with the Red Dress) and I think the song has a stronger tie to the ’39 film version as opposed to the novel. Both the film and song really focus on the elder Cathy and Heathcliff, with a large emphasis on their romance. While it is a big portion of the story, I feel like it overshadows everything else. Yes there relationship is complex and interesting, but it is not the entire story. Their actions do affect a good portion of what happens elsewhere in the novel, but that does not mean the focus should just remain on them.

So the novel. I new very little coming into this novel and left with more than I thought I would. I was always under the impression that this was supposed to be some huge, steamy romance novel that was more risque than Boogie Nights. Personally I don’t really see the novel as an epic romance. Yes there is an overall theme of love that manifests itself in various forms (especially if you think of Heathcliff and Cathy numero uno having an incest relationship), but I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily romantic. Cathy Jr.’s deep love for her father isn’t what I’d call romantic, but it is love. So to me it’s a broad love story in a very gothic setting.

The ’39 Goldwyn film however defiantly plays up the steamy romance. Heathcliff is pretty much purely evil in the book. The only saving grace he has is Cathy Uno and even that isn’t nearly enough to redeem him compared to what he does, or seems to do in the novel. In the film however Heathcliff is basically an angel. In the novel it is Heathcliff who harasses Hindley bout the colts (horses), where as the film flips it completely and goes so far as to having Heathcliff getting hit over the head with a rock (which incidentally doesn’t seem to phase him at all). Heathcliff is portrayed as slightly evil when he is an adult and even at that only glimpses. He torments Hindley, but being as Hindley clearly treats him horribly when growing up, this seems to be somewhat fair. Heathcliff at least doesn’t throw a rock at his head. The largest act of ‘evil’ that I can think of that he does is slapping Isabella, which during the 30’s/40’s would have been a big deal. I’m going to get more into Heathcliff in another post. To much to talk about him. Cathy is visibly more jealous of Isabella and Heathcliff’s relationship in the film as well. Their isn’t much of a split with Cathy in the film, since she regularly shows a strong desire for Heathcliff, and she is sane when she portrays these desires. The film ends on a classic 30’s/40’s note with the sun shining, the two holding hands, and intrusively loud orchestra playing it’s final epic farewell that all is well.

I personally like how the film changes the era that the film takes place in. Apparently Goldwyn chose to use Civil War fashions since he thought they looked better and because of a budget problem. Made the film look a bit to much like “Gone With the Wind” which incidentally came out the same year.

One thing I’m grateful that they chose not to do in this film is to add that horribly ‘glow’ to Merle Oberon (Cathy). A lot of black and white films in this era, (overall for that matter) put an extra ‘glow’ through the use of a ton of makeup and the use of soft light. The biggest instances I can think of are with the big name blonde actresses (which were a good number of them) who literally glowed and looked a bit fuzzy compared to everyone else in the film. I personally despise this technique because it plain irks me. It’s a neat trick but it is to in your face for me. Fortunately they did not do that in this movie. Merle Oberon looked as plain as everyone else.

They also did a wonderful job with the lighting. Being black and white, and with out the technology to make a high contrast black and white film (like “Good night, and Good Luck”) they made the lighting as realistic as possible. It’s obviously not historically accurate being as you wouldn’t be able to see anything in the room. However the extra light they added was done only enough to make it so you could see what was going clearly enough, and still retained being dark.

The set in the film was brilliant as well. For the most part I think the entire film was filmed in the studio. All the shots of the moors (which are few) are clearly a canvas screen created by the art department. The only thing that I can think of that may have been filmed outside are a few scenes early on with Cathy and Heathfcliff ridding horses and running around. I can’t think of any long or establishing shots, which makes sense because the set would have to be huge for you to do that when your essentially filming in a large warehouse.

As good as the score for the film was and it did do a wonderful job at moving up and down with the characters emotions, it was just to loud. Sound editing was bad on that. For the majority of a film the score is supposed to be something that you don’t actively think about. It’s in the background guiding you unconsciously. For me the score was way to loud, especially when the characters were talking. It was intrusive. i was to aware of the fact that there was this huge orchestra sitting right outside the house playing along. The only time the music really fit was at the end where there’s the huge crescendo with the entire orchestra playing and saying “Guess what the film is over!”

A bit of a disheveled post, but it covers what I think of the film in a nutshell for the most part. I’ll be posting about Heathcliff at some point since I have a lot of thoughts about that bloke and Laurence Olivier.


Posted on April 20, 2011, in Old Nic At The Movies Posts. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Nic, congrats on being the first to figure out the video embedding! Also, I really enjoyed your references to “Cathy Uno.” They made me laugh.

    What really caught me was your mention of movie!Cathy’s jealousy of Isabella. All through the film I knew I felt Cathy was out of character, but I couldn’t pinpoint how. Obviously she was nicer and saner than the book version, but I also felt the Cathy of the book was almost immune to jealousy. In the scene in the library where she informs Heathcliff of Isabella’s crush on him, she does not seem particularly bothered by it because she’s so secure in Heathcliff’s love for her. Movie!Heathcliff has a line about Cathy now shifting from thinking of him as her spurned lover to Isabella’s husband. I felt this fit the movie much more than it would have fit the book because of Cathy’s jealousy. In the book Heathcliff’s marriage punished Cathy, but because she was so selfish and she punished others more than she was punished, it affected her less. In the movie, her niceness made her more vulnerable to human emotions like jealousy.

  2. You are right Nic. Unlike the novel this movie does seem to “play up the steamy romance”. The movie is much more sexual and tensions are certainly captured and highlighted throughout. Also I think it’s interesting that you mentioned the glow that seems to cause leading ladies to radiate in black and white movies. The first movie that comes to mind is “Casablanca” and I always wondered why she literally glowed. Now I know its a technique! I actually like that technique however, as it really emphasizes the magnificence with which directors try to surround their leading women. I do however think that the added glow in this film would probably have been overkill since the entire film is already so dramatic.

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