Cultural Diversity

     When reading about various cultures, I notice and compare the differences of these cultures to the American culture. To me America, when being compared to other cultures, seems to be more of a conservative type culture. One can see through the media and through literature how cultures, particularly the European, are more liberal and free spirited then the American culture. This is conveyed when comparing the two movie versions of Emily Brontė's 1847 Wuthering Heights: William Wyler's 1939 Wuthering Heights and Luis Buńuel's 1954 Los Abismos de Pasion.

     In the Americanized cinematic adaptation of Wuthering Heights, Catherine (Sarita Wooten/Merle Oberon) is portrayed as a character of gentility. Catherine also defies and hides the love that she has for Heathcliff (Rex Downing/Laurence Olivier). In Brontė's book Catherine becomes pregnant by her husband, Edward. Although this pregnancy is legitimate in the book, Catherine's pregnancy is not portrayed in the Americanized movie version. On the other hand in the Spanish cinematic adaptation of Wuthering Heights, Los Abismos de Pasion, Catalina (Catherine) (Irasema Dilian) is portrayed as a more vivacious and flamboyant character. Unlike Catherine in the American movie version, Catalina does not hide her love for Alejando (Heathcliff) (Jorge Mistral). She openly professes her love for him, including in front of her husband. Also in contrast with the Americanized film version, the pregnancy of Catherine in Brontė's book is reveled and is openly discussed in the Spanish film version.

     These two contrasting portrayals revel how through classic American films one can see how conservative and moralistic the American culture is compared to European cultures. Although Los Abismos de Pasion was filmed in Mexico, the director Luis Buńuel originated in Spain, thus bringing European aspects to his movies which are perceived by the viewer.

     Emily Brontė wrote Wuthering Heights in 1847. Brontė's description that characterizes the book is morbid and violent. Brontė's readers feel the desperation and the hatred that is conveyed in her writing. The first cinematic adaptation of Wuthering Heights was written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur and directed in 1939 by William Wyler. Brontė's book takes place in England, and the movie itself was filmed in a Hollywood studio and nearby California hills. The year 1939 was a crucial and desperate year for Americans. This was during the time of the recovery of the Depression and the New Deal policies administered by Franklin Roosevelt. People were not very optimistic about their future, their lives were at stake everyday. Hollywood through its movie tried to movie away from this depression of society and tried to take its viewers away from this for at least an hour and a half.

     This type of optimistic view is noticeable when comparing the endings of the two versions of Wuthering Heights. In the Americanized version Catherine dies, and there is a burial. The ending of this movie sticks to the message that Brontė tries to get across to her readers. It ends with the ghosts of Catherine and Heathcliff (ghost-acted by doubles) walking the moors hand and hand and the viewer receives a sense of tranquility or peacefulness. In the ending of Los Abismos de Pasion, Alejandro is seen in the tomb of Catalina trying to communicate with her dead body and then is shot by her brother, Ricardo (Luis Aceves Castenada). Once again these two contrasting endings revels the diversity of cultures. In conclusion although Wuthering Heights and Los Abismos de Pasion were created among different cultures, both films portrayed the love story that the audience.

Whitney Hickman

Table of Contents