The Directors Make the Difference

         After viewing the 1939 film Wuthering Heights, directed by William Wyler and comparing it to the 1954 film Los Abismos de Pasion, directed by Luis Buñuel, both based on Emily Brontë's 1847 Wuthering Heights, I found that it was easy to see the differences. The characters and settings caused both films to take on different tones.

         Wyler's film was less aggressive visually than the film done by Buñuel. The home in Wyler's film was set in the California hills passing as Yorkshire moors, a beautiful and peaceful setting. For those of you who have seen it, this gave the story a sort of Little House on the Prairie feel. The characters were also much more civilized. In this film, Heathcliff (Laurence Oliver), refrained from going to extremes about his love for Cathy (Merle Oberon) and approached situations, like his marriage to Isabella (Geraldine Fitzgerald) much more calmly. In my opinion, Wyler showed little aggression on screen.

         Buñuel's 1954 version used much more gothic imagery. I am not sure if this was due to the fact that it was filmed fifteen years later, or if it was due to the difference in culture. The homes were castle-like and rugged. I instantly knew the characters would show more of their evil sides. My theory was supported during one of the first scenes showing Catalina (Irasema Dilian) outside shooting birds, and Eduardo (Ernesto Alonzo) inside pinning butterflies for his insect collection. To me, this mirrored their numbed personality due to their lack of remorse, which was not shown as strongly in Wyler's film. Los Abismos de Pasion can be best described as brutal. However, although Alejandro's (Heathcliff) acting like a vampire with Isabel (Lilia Prado), I suppose, was intended to symbolize his aggression, I found it to be overly exaggerated and comical, not to mention the fact that he broke down at least three doors in the film.

         Nevertheless, I enjoyed this version because their personalities were captured better. Alejandro was doing what he had to do to get to Catalina, while inflicting torture upon Isabel. Still, the most drastic change would have to be the ending. I would have to say it did surprise me. Director Luis Buñuel decided to add an interesting twist. Ricardo, finally following through with his threats, shot Alejandro while he was visiting Catalina's grave. This was entirely different than the other versions. In the book, Heathcliff wanted to die, but in Wyler's movie he rushed out into the snowstorm after Cathy. However, this change worked rather well. This ending gave the film a more Romeo and Juliet feel.

Sharel Carter

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