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Wuthering Shite

Adaptation Studies is now a field of academic research within Humanities Dept - now is your chance to write a thesis on Sense & Sensibility & Emma Thomson. In fact, my dissertation was Agatha Christie & Heritage Culture, which involved me doing some adaptation studies work too.

Which waffle brings me onto... the HORROR I experience on Sunday evening. MY GAWD.

I know it's cheesy to say your favourite novel is Wuthering Heights, but mine is, so there. I've studied it at A-level and university level so I know the damn thing inside out and back to front (which the makers of this adaptation clearly didn't!).

Not only do I like the story, I also like the way it's written, the structure of it, which means that I'll come to blows with any adaptation of it, won't I? The cyclical structure echoes the cyclical plot, with the second generation mirroring and resolving the drama-ramas endured and created by the first generation. At the beginning of the novel, we have the famous window scene with Lockwood, the visitor, drenched by the rain, having his terrifying nightmare about the child's arm and the broken glass and blood, and it ends with Heathcliff by the same window, his arm cut, the glass broken, the bedsheets soaked with the rain.

But the adaptation seemed (I was cooking the tea so I can't swear on it) to start with 2nd generation Catherine being presented with her mother's book by Nelly. No Lockwood in this adaptation then! No scene setting the supernatural, uncanny atmosphere which haunts (literally) the novel? No... and as there wasn't the first scene to mirror at the end, it finished with Heathcliff shooting himself. No uncanny death for him; whereas in the book we're left with the unanswered question of what he dies of, where it seems as though his soul gives up and leaves his body to wander in a ghostly fashion on the moors with Catherine. Well done for ruining the novel and ripping out the whole point of it. Let's make it into a Catherine Cookson, shall we?

There's the famous - and decisive - scene where Catherine unburdens herself to Nelly, with the line, "Nelly, I am Heathcliff", as well as the "Heaven did not seem to be my home" speech (which Morrissey purloined). This adaptation had the "Heaven" speech uttered by Catherine in a church, by herself with Heathcliff. And did Heathcliff overhear only part of Catherine's speech to Nelly? ("It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now") So that he goes off in a rage, disappearing for 3 years, never hearing that she did actually love him after all?

Nope. The scene was interspersed with footage of Heathcliff (who kinda looked a bit like a young Keanu Reeves crossed with David Thewliss) saddlin' up his horse and ridin' away rather petulantly.

Throughout the beginning of the episode (it was shown in two parts), there were extra scenes shoved in here and there where people kept on about how Mr Earnshaw was probably Heathcliff's dad and that Heathcliff was an illegitimate bastard. Hilariously, at one point Hindley (Earnshaw's father) says "But people are saying that you kept a harem in Liverpool while mother was ill." O RLY? In those days, living in that bit of Yorkshire, if you were going to keep a harem, it'd be in Bradford or Leeds, not really far away in Liverpool! Not that you would keep a harem anyway. But it just really seemed to spoil the mystery of Heathcliff's origins.

Despite more or less stating that Heathcliff is Catherine's half-brother, they still stuck in a sex scene - well, H&C rolling about and then a few scenes later Heathcliff commenting on them having "laid together". I do wonder though how much influence the life of Byron had on the novel, so that the frisson of half-siblings getting it on may have informed the desperate passion between H&C - but I don't think it's literal, and surely that's the point of the novel and what drives it, the tragedy of unrequited, impossible love.

The effect of shoving in all these extra scenes means that the dialogue writers are hard-pressed to make it sound like it's from the novel. And it doesn't sound like it's from the novel. Christopher Lee once said that in one of the Hammer Draculas, he doesn't speak because he refused to use the script. He was astonished at how badly written it was when they had the source material of a fabulously-written novel. And this is my dismay watching this adaptation! WHY WHY WHY WHY....

There's a good review here which addresses the weirdness of them changing the characters' ages, so that at Mr Earnshaw's death, they're not children but teenagers, and also making Cathering die aged 25, rather than 18 or 19 as she does in the novel. And that the action for the second generation is randomly set in 1848 - despite the novel coming with a family tree complete with birth and death dates set out by the author! In the novel, Heathcliff's hatred of Hindley makes sense as he's been tyrannised by him since childhood, but in the adaptation, Heathcliff only seems to endure a couple of years, if that, of being bullied by Hindley. It seems to reduce his motivation in hating Hindley so much, because there wouldn't have been enough time for Hindley to have degraded Heathcliff to the point where Catherine feels she can't marry him (and how could she if everyone was so loudly going about saying they reckoned he was her half-brother anyway?).

It was shown in two parts but I couldn't bring myself to watch the second part because it was just so unrelentingly awful.

I think the best adaptation of it is the Ralph Fiennes/Juliette Binoche version. If you can get over Catherine having an ill-supressed French accent, then it is quite faithful to the book. Well - more faithful than this pile of tosh, anyway!!!


( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 2nd, 2009 03:21 pm (UTC)
I saw it, too. They took some liberties, but for me it was indulgent, silly LOLfodder. When Heathcliff appeared on the horse at the beginning I couldn't help but think Russell Brand had seen better days.
Sep. 2nd, 2009 03:23 pm (UTC)
Bwahahahhaahaaaaaaaaaa!!!!! ;D

Yeah, what was going on with all the faffing about with the horse buying?!
Sep. 2nd, 2009 03:26 pm (UTC)
It was to show how wild and savage Heathcliff is, because there's nothing in the book to adequately suggest that.

Also, Cathy's death wasn't spiteful enough for me. In my first dissertation I wrote a long chapter on how her death was to piss off Heathcliff, but in this she just seemed to sneeze and fall over. Heathcliff was the one who made all the stupid decisions and it made it all weirdly one-sided.
Sep. 2nd, 2009 03:41 pm (UTC)
Hahahah! ;) It seemed a bit ott, didn't it!

Yes that's true, in the novel she seems to be saying "this is all your fault!" It's her way of taking it out on everyone. Rather an extreme method, but still. And it's a very harrowing death in the novel as well. I think that in the tv version, they didn't show how stroppy and childish Catherine is.

The way they messed about with Edgar & Catherine's marriage annoyed me - surely the point is that despite her feelings for Heathcliff, she did love Edgar? Yes, she loved his money as well, but there's that very contented domestic tableau that Nelly sees, where Edgar and Catherine are sitting by the window looking at the mist winding up Gimmerton Beck, and it's lovely. And Heathcliff turns up and wrecks it all (as does Catherine), but I do think they did love each other.
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 2nd, 2009 03:44 pm (UTC)
Sep. 2nd, 2009 07:01 pm (UTC)
They have to sex it down for the masses and I think certain adaptations reflect society at the time. We just got a bland washed out TV version. To reflect the bland washed out boring TV thrown into our living rooms, much like waiting for the next bus to come, hoping the journey will at least be a bit more exiting...

I couldn't stomach it, Ii'm afraid and left the room. So can't really comment.....
Sep. 2nd, 2009 07:52 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that's true... it was really quite a pointless adaptation!
Sep. 3rd, 2009 12:30 am (UTC)
see if you're gonna do all those changes why even bother doing Wuthering Heights? Pisses me off.

It's probably cheesier to say your favorite novel is Pride & Prejudice because there's so many Jane Austen creepsters. But I can't help it, I love it.
Sep. 3rd, 2009 11:42 am (UTC)
Exactly. The review I linked to reckoned the best adaptation they'd seen of it was Sparkhouse, which is just based on Wuthering Heights! And I think they may have a point....

I know the feeling... I'm not going to say Joyce's Ulysses is my favourite book because... it's not! It would make me look intelligent and less like a fangirl to say so, but it's true.

I like Virginia Woolf and even Joyce's Portrait of the Artists as a Young Man, but they don't make it to my FAVOURITE book because they don't capture me or haunt me in the same way as my favourite book does.
Sep. 3rd, 2009 12:31 am (UTC)
also I seem to remember Gordon Brown calling himself Heathcliff for some reason? I heard it on NPR and only recall it because they talked to someone from the Bronte museum. She, and the reporter, were both rather "bitch, please."
Sep. 3rd, 2009 11:44 am (UTC)
Loooooooooool, I'd forgotten about that but I've found this BBC article here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7497903.stm

Why on earth would women say he reminds them of Heathcliff?! He reminds me more of Boz Boorer!
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 3rd, 2009 11:45 am (UTC)
Re: Whack us then hug us hard
Yes, Joseph was really not exploited. He's really quite scary and yet we don't get any impression of that at all.

They filleted it, didn't they? :(
Sep. 3rd, 2009 11:21 am (UTC)
British tv novel adaptations! Oh, how I miss them! What do you think about the 1939 version, by the way? Good old Laurence was quite a nice Heathcliff.
Sep. 3rd, 2009 11:22 am (UTC)
Shoot, wrong icon!
Sep. 3rd, 2009 11:45 am (UTC)
Sep. 3rd, 2009 11:47 am (UTC)
Oh - I'm conflicted about it! I think they do well capturing that atmosphere of the moors, and I think the characterisations of the leads are excellent, but there is that problem with them hardly bothering with the second generation, which has left decades of readers since then getting really confused with Catherine dying so soon!
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )