Abridged Passion

         Most students read Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights more than once during their academic career. This tale rotates around one theme—passion. In this 1847 novel, the madness of passion, which engulfs both Heathcliff and Catherine, sends the reader into a frenzy of drama as they hide and burst forth with their emotions sporadically. In 1939 William Wyler made this avant-garde book into a film. As the director, he was provided with a theatrical predicament, trying to relate the intense emotion of the story without complete disregard of the English reserve. This dilemma was not an issue for the filmmaker Luis Buñuel, who used Brontë’s novel as a framework for his 1954 Los Abismos de Pasion set in Mexico. The Hispanic culture is a passionate society, the outrageous emotions, which dominate the book.

         The first scene of Los Abismos de Pasion sets a mood, which is carried throughout the entirety of the film. Catalina, played by Irasema Dilian, comes in from shooting at buzzards and shows blatant disregard for her husband (Ernesto Alonzo) and sister-in-law’s (Lilia Prado) protests. As she mocks their remarks, the audience is able to understand her determined and narcissistic character. She also shows extreme emotion when Alejandro (Jorge Mistral) returns, as she is struggling with her husband to greet him, letting her feelings for Alejandro become transparent.

         The book makes the moors seem beautiful at times, but often harsh and barren. The rolling hills of California used in the Wyler film, while closer in exact description, gave more of a subtle beauty. The foreshadowing of the dreary tale is seen clearly in the harsh, desolate stones and dust that make up the background in the Mexican movie.

         There is a saying: “British only show emotion towards dogs and horses.” Heathcliff, played by Laurence Olivier, shows restrained emotion while trying to stay in character as an English gentleman. Olivier’s lack of theatrical expression completely undermines Heathcliff’s character. Jorge Mistral, who portrayed Alejandro, bursts forth with passion when necessary, abandoning the legendary reserve of an English gentleman.

         Los Abismos de Pasion lacks nearly all the details found in the novel that Wyler’s 1939 version emphasizes. The insight of the characters’ personalities in Buñuel’s film is so intense that this insight makes up for the film’s lack of accuracy. This version rises above the average, common love story by the deep passion the characters portray. The brilliance of Brontë’s work is not in the romanticism of the characters, but in the way their minds work to sabotage their own lives. Wuthering Heights’ timelessness lies in its descriptive analysis of how selfish and twisted human nature can be. It is far better to have the less accurate, but more empathetic account of events than the first half of the complete plot with abridged passion.

Laura Harrison

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