Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Wuthering Heights (1939 and 2012)

On the harsh and windy British Moorlands, a magnanimous estate keeper takes in a disheveled orphan who, as a stable boy, becomes the target of his son's sadism and the apple of his daughter's eye who, as time goes by, is compelled to bury these intensely intimate feelings. Wikipedia shows there have been no less than fifteen adaptations of Emily Bronte's novel (which I have yet to read), the most famous of which is William Wyler's 1939 version featuring Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon, and David Niven, and most recently Andrea Arnold attempted to give the classic a shot in the arm with a gritty update. Watching Wyler's revered film again, I found it to be stodgy with Oberon an overwrought Cathy, Olivier only seeming comfortable when playing the civilized Heathcliffe, and Gregg Toland's Oscar winning cinematography being a highlight. Arnold's version also contains beautiful photography but her film is plodding, incohesive, and never successfully draws the viewer into the powerful story.