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Having been fascinated by the Brontes for several years and growing up in
Yorkshire, I've longed to see a faithful adaptation of Wuthering Heights for
a long time. Why it's taken me so long to see this version I don't know!
I just watched this film tonight and I'm left shattered by it. It is stunning. It's probably a sacrilege to some to say that I thought the 1939 version with Laurence Olivier was awful, but there it is. That was saccharine and gave no hint as to the darkness of the original novel. This version, however, recaptures all that darkness and torment and shatters your soul with it.
Ralph Fiennes is an astonishing Heathcliff. Capable of tenderness but torn apart by what he can't have all for himself. The chemistry between him and Juliette Binoche is electrifying - Heathcliff and Cathy were born to be together and to see them almost forced apart by each of them failing to be true to their heart well.. it breaks YOUR heart. The poetic dialogue with Heathcliff and Cathy on the moors and the movie score complements this perfectly.
Supporting roles are also solid especially the actress who played Ellen Dean and an interesting cameo by Sinead O Connor as Emily Bronte! The only complaint I could make about this film is that it's not long enough! Years seem to fly by far too quickly and we barely get an insight into why Cathy and Heathcliff's souls are intertwined. However, what we DO see is stunning.
For me - 10/10.
I read some comments that said they were disappointed in this version... however, i completely disagree. I have also read the book. In fact, it's my absolute favorite book and I have searched and searched for a movie version that captured it accurately. I was particularly interested in finding a version where they use all of my favorite speech by Catherine when she speaks of her changing love of Linton compared to her eternal love for Heathcliff and showing this scene as it I find it the most important part of the book. I find it to be the turning point in the story as it is where Heathcliff first leaves Catherine and FINALLY this version did it, not only in this speech but in all other aspects. I find it the best one and highly recommend it. No other version comes close to capturing the essence of this book. The casting choice is also excellent as well with all the characters looking and acting exactly like I pictured in my head as i read the book. And the emotions each character had were acted out perfectly as I had envisioned the various speeches by the characters in the book.
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.
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.
It is puzzling that critics generally seem not to like this filming of Emily Bronte's tale of vengeance and woe. True, it is not a perfect novel as even Charlotte Bronte allowed in a preface to a later edition, but it evokes powerful images and emotions apropos of the Yorkshire country. This film, moreover, gives us the whole story to the bitter end, unlike some previous filmings. It is beautifully photographed in a bleak and forbidding setting. Color balances seem a tad weird at times and the editing is not always precise, but it is certainly a good attempt at a difficult story. For me, I found the acting good to adequate, often even excellent. This version deserves a look.
With this version out, there is no contest that this is by far the best version. No question that many of the other versions only cover about 16 of the 34 full chapters of Bronte's masterpiece. Therefore with this in mind, and the absolutely stunning performances from both Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche, that this should be a staple in everyone's movie repertoire. The sweeping Gothic backdrop paints a somber and dark canvas for the movie to be played out upon. The powerful performance by Heathcliff (Fiennes) is shown in the scene when he is talking on the moor after finding out Catherine's death, the mixed emotions of hatred, despair, and hurt are seen as he shows how heartbroken in the news of her demise, with the words in mind "Haunt me then..." (by far and away the best line in the book). Catherine (Juliette Binoche) plays a wonderful counterpart to Heathcliff's malevolent, obsessive nature. She shows that there is a bright spot in the dark Gothic terrain known as Wuthering Heights. With an unreal soundtrack to go along with supreme acting and overall ability to stay true to Bronte's masterpiece, this movie is second to none, a 10 in my opinion, and should be in yours as well!
I just saw this movie a week ago. And, I loved it. Then I read the book
(I couldn't do it before, but now I tried to find a chance), and I must
say this movie is very faithful. It shows the real darkness from the
book, even when I was reading this book I couldn't help some images
from the movie come into my mind.
The cinematography, the music and, overall, the performances, are great. Actually, I love Ralph Fiennes's acting the most. His Heathcliff is just as dark, evil, tormented and hurt as Emily Brontë describes him. Despite of his evil, one feels sympathy about him, one feels sorry for him, one wants to know more about his origin, who is him truly. Very good job, indeed. It doesn't surprise to me that Spielberg had chosen Ralph Fiennes as his Schindler's List's Amon Goeth after had seen such a good work.
I also think that the scriptwriter chose the best phrases from the book, I especially love Heathcliff's speech after Cathy's death, next to that tree, very touching, and when he says "I cannot live without my life, I cannot live without my soul" (which Cathy had already said before when Heathcliff runs away and she goes to Linton's home) I almost burst in tears.
Those who love classic stories and very good movies based on them, must see this.
I first happened across this movie on cable, and found myself absolutely
captivated by Ralph Fienne's portrayal of Heathcliff. I can think of no
better actor for the part, as Fiennes speaks volumes with his eyes alone,
and magnificently portrays the tortured, twisted protagonist/antagonist.
rest of the lead cast is likewise brilliant, especially with regards to
Juliette Binoche's endearing Catherine. The movie strays from Bronte's
only on minor issues, and overall, performs in a manner worthy of the
The sensitive and masterful score by Sakamoto is almost a character in itself. Listening to it without distraction, it is almost impossible not to absorb the desolate and haunting mood of the film. The choice of locale for the movie was absolutely perfect, capturing the metaphors represented by the two great houses and the stark English moor.
This is definitely one of my favorite movies of all time, and one of the few occasions in which it may equal or even supercede the original novel. A must-see for fans of twisted period romances or anyone interested in pondering the roles of love and evil in the human soul.
After all these impressive reviews, there is not much else for me to say
except that, on the whole, this film worked for me. The screenplay was very
good and at times even excellent, although I would not put it in the same
league as "Dangerous Liaisons". The film was visually a masterpiece,
capturing essential decadence in its set and on location in
Supporting cast were notable, particularly Janet McTeer and Simon Shepherd, who was very touching at times, especially with young Catherine. However, the film's quality came from the amazing performance of Ralph Fiennes whose sexual magnetism and intensity stole the screen. Indeed, without Fiennes, the film would have been too under-rated and even slow. Whilst Fiennes exploded in scenes such as breaking into the chapel, I found Binoche very stilted in her "emotional" scenes. At times, she over-acted whilst at others she lacked any expression at all. This made her character quite difficult to understand and I found it hard to imagine how the brooding, precarious Heathcliff could be so infatuated with her. She killed any sense of sexual tension and her acting seemed out of keeping with the others'.
Having said that, the film managed to develop the theme of love/hate with extreme ferocity. It portrayed how love can evoke pity and repulsion, blending passion with destruction, and life with death. Such contrasts effectively convey the eternal dichotomy of human love.
Although I would not suggest this film to anyone who has not read the book first (you would be thoroughly confused and missing out on major details of the plot!) I found Wuthering Heights (1992) to be the ideal visual aid to compliment the tragedy and passion of Heathcliff and Catherine's story. If Emily Bronte were alive, she herself would have cast Ralph Fiennes as Heathcliff (he was born for the role!) and Juliette Binoche was perfect particularly when she showed the more playful and childish sides of Catherine (her laughter was exactly as I had imagined - bright and bold...and just irritating enough that it really would drive Heathcliff - and later, Hareton - to suffer from wounded pride when it was directed at their egos). The beauty of this story is that you never really can decide who is the villain and who is the victim....
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