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Heathcliff is Cathy Earnshaw's foster brother; more than that, he is her other half. When forces within and without tear them apart, Heathcliff wreaks vengeance on those he holds responsible, even into a second generation. Written by
Quite faithful version, but somewhat stiff and lacking in emotion
SPOILERS Much has been made of this version of Emily Bronte's novel being the first cinematic version to be really faithful to her book. For once, we see the story continue after Cathy's death, and Heathcliff is shown to be truly villainous. More importantly ,this version gets across the fact that BOTH Heathcliff and Cathy are mean, selfish people who destroy themselves, each other and don't seem bothered about destroying others too. Ralph Fiennes is almost Bronte's character on screen, and skillfully maintains a bit of sympathy for Heathcliff even when he is committing the most dreadful of acts. Visually the film, filmed for once in Yorkshire, is terrific- bleak in an almost beautiful way, and a few scenes, such as the hand of Cathy's ghost in the window, are indeed excellently done.
However the film is seriously flawed by it's odd lack of emotion. There is a stiff, 'Merchant Ivory' feel to the film, completely wrong with a story as full of powerful, destructive emotions such as this. Only one scene, when Heathcliff cradles Cathy's body in her grave, really has any real power. Heathcliff's end and reunion with Cathy should be tearjerking, but is hardly moving at all. The attempt to include more of Bronte's plot is not too successful either, because many important scenes are rushed to keep the running time low. And there are some odd changes which do not work. What is the point of having Emily Bronte at the start and at the end, especially when Lockwood still narrates the main story? Why do Heathcliff and Cathy appear to have a sexual relationship, and right near the beginning? Why have Heathcliff beat up his wife? Yes, he mistreated her but having him as a wife batterer makes no sense, is he not bad enough already?
Still a reasonably worthy attempt than, but, in terms of cinema, the 1939 version is far superior.
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