A poor boy of unknown origins is rescued from poverty and taken in by the Earnshaw family where he develops an intense relationship with his young foster sister, Cathy. Based on the classic novel by Emily Bronte.
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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
Ralph Fiennes insisted on keeping a scene from the book in which Heathcliff bangs his head against a tree, pining for Cathy. He did it so sedulously, that he drew blood. See more »
My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff is the eternal rock beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I AM Heathcliff!
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As I am a writer, very seldom am I at a loss for words. Yet now, I can find none suitable. I have written many reviews, in many places, for quite a long time. Yet, never, in all of that time have I sat down to write my thoughts immediately after watching a film. Still, I sit here now, trying vainly to describe what I am feeling. What this movie has MADE me feel.
The story of Heathcliff and Cathy is not about love as most know it. It is MORE than love. It is a fusion, a union of two souls separated by society and circumstance, yet bonded so completely that even death could not sever them. Love beyond pain, beyond place, beyond reason.
Never has an adaptation brought this classic Victorian novel so completely to the screen. That, in itself, is high praise. Wuthering Heights had been made 14 times before this, the 1992 incarnation. It is the only version to tell the complete story in all of its dark detail. It is also the LAST time, to date, it has been made. And that should be the highest praise of all.
Why? Because there is no need to do it again. It cannot be improved upon beyond this. Yes, the movie can be a bit confusing, even abrupt in the plot shifts for those who have never read the book. But for those who have: Anne Devlin treats her screenplay with reverence for Emily Bronte's novel. Many whole scenes are intact, the dialog exactly as written originally. The scenery was breathtaking. And the house, the Heights itself, was perfect. Still standing there, after centuries, keeping its own secrets in the silence of its stones.
The cast of actors includes not one single Hollywood darling. Thank God. They would have ruined it. But, because the cast is not overly well known in the US, you concentrate on the PERFORMANCES rather than the performers.
And, it is in these performances this film rises above its predecessors. The actors all turn in solid efforts. Each is true to character, from selfish Cathy (Juliette Binoche) to vapid Isabella (Sophie Ward). Simon Shepherd's Edgar Linton is far more likable than the novel. His portrayal is an improvement on the original, and you actually pity him for being caught between Cathy and Heathcliff.
Heathcliff. An immortal character, like Sherlock Holmes, or Hamlet. Sir Laurence Olivier, arguably the best Hamlet, played Heathcliff in the 1939 version opposite Merle Oberon as Cathy. Until tonight, I thought his was the best Heathcliff, as well. Until tonight.
Tonight I watched Ralph Fiennes play Heathcliff. No, not play. He BECAME Heathcliff. Bronte's Heathcliff. A Heathcliff I had always pictured clearly in my mind, but had NEVER seen before my eyes. Before tonight. This man is RIVETING. He commands the story, seizing it, wrenching it to his will as Heathcliff does the lives of those around him.
Yet, you do not hate him for it. Rather, you ache for him. You look into his eyes and feel every rip in his soul, the agony of every jagged edge in his shattered heart. You watch him wear his cruelty like a mantle, lashing out at a world which denies him the only thing he has ever wanted, the only thing which will make him whole. I cry at movies all the time. Seldom, though, am I torn in a grief so absolute I am left at the end empty, and spent.
I don't know much about Ralph Fiennes work. I tend to like films that deal in anything BUT reality, so have not seen much of him. I loved Red Dragon, but until I read his filmography, I never connected Francis Dolarhyde to Heathcliff, which is perhaps the greatest compliment one can give an actor. Fiennes alone is the reason you cannot improve on this film. No one could ever bring Heathcliff to life like this. The role belongs to him.
I have loved Emily Bronte's novel since childhood. I have read it often. But now, something has changed it for me, forever. No matter how many times I may read Wuthering Heights in future, after tonight, I know I shall never again read it without seeing the face, or hearing the voice, of Ralph Fiennes.
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