Many Versions of WUTHERING HEIGHTS but Only One HEATHCLIFF

Which one of these three versions of WUTHERING HEIGHTS resembles the book by Emily Bronte most?

Wuthering Heights (1939 film)

Wuthering Heights (1939 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cover of "Wuthering Heights (1970)"

Cover of Wuthering Heights (1970)

Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights

Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (Photo credit: wikipedia)

Did you know that “Heathcliff” in WUTHERING HEIGHTS is a despicable character–I mean REALLY despicable?  If you saw the 1939 version of WUTHERING HEIGHTS, starring Lawrence Olivier and Merle Oberon. or the 1970 version, starring Timothy Dalton and Anna Calder-Marshall, you might have found Heathcliff engaging.  But in 1992, Ralph Fiennes portrayed him as a handsome brute, with the emphasis on brute.

The first time I watched Ralph Fiennes in that role, I was horrified.  Heathcliff was nothing less than obsessively passionate–and obsessively cruel.  For some reason, I sat through the film a second time, but this time found the mean-spirited Heathcliff oddly appealing.  If I could define his performance in one word, it would be “intense.”  In fact, Ralph Fiennes gives the most intense performance I’ve ever witnessed in this or any film.

I had read the book as a teenager but forgotten most of the story.  So I read it again.   Was I surprised!  The film follows the book almost to the letter.  Ralph Fiennes’ “Heathcliff” is nearly identical to Emily Bronte’s description.

Here is an excerpt from the book of Heathcliff describing his wife, Isabella:

“She [is] under a delusion,” he answered, “picturing in me a hero of romance, and expecting unlimited indulgences from my chivalrous devotion.  I can hardly regard her in the light of a rational creature, so obstinately has she persisted in forming a fabulous notion of my character and acting on the false impressions she cherished.  But, at last, I think she begins to know me: I don’t perceive the silly smiles and grimaces that provoked me at first; and the senseless incapability of discerning that I was in earnest when I  gave her my opinion of her infatuation and herself.  It was a marvelous effort of perspicacity to discover that I did not love her.  I believed, at one time, no lessons could teach her that!  And yet it is poorly learnt, for this morning she announced, as a piece of appalling intelligence, that I had actually succeeded in making her hate me!  A positive labour of Hercules, I assure you!”

I urge women who haven’t seen this film to watch it.  You’ll love hating Heathcliff and hate loving him.

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4 thoughts on “Many Versions of WUTHERING HEIGHTS but Only One HEATHCLIFF

  1. captainwafflez

    I think it’s hard to really ‘like’ any of the characters in Wuthering Heights.. They all have their flaws. And that’s partly what makes it one of my favourite reads ever! :D

    Reply

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