Setting Is Everything

     Even though the setting is in a different hemisphere, Luis Buńuel's 1954 film, Los Abismos de Pasion, portrays the wildness of the northern English moors in Emily Brontė's 1847 Wuthering Heights. While William Wyler chooses to stay in sync with the novel's setting for his 1939 film version of Wuthering Heights, Buńuel's film is set in the Mexican countryside. Setting is very important to the story not only in a work of literature, but also a film. An author communicates his intentions by the mood the setting conveys. A film adaptation of a great work of literature should strive to recreate the mood of the novel. In the novel, Wuthering Heights symbolizes Cathy and Heathcliff's love--a love that is natural, hearty, and unrefined. The devotion of Brontė's Catherine and Heathcliff is powerful and natural. The love between Alejandro and Catalina is as untamed and free as their surroundings. Dilian and Mistral capture the spirit of the characters they portray.

     Los Abismos de Pasion succeeds in recreating the mood of the original story. From the opening scene to the closing, the coarse desert illustrates the atmosphere in which Alejandro (Heathcliff), played by Jorge Mistral, and Catalina (Catherine), depicted by Irasema Dilian, grew up. Brontė wrote about a world that was removed from the refined elegance of London manners and fashion. Buńuel captures this aspect in his film adaptation. Life on the Mexican ranch is real and sometimes harsh, sometimes even unpleasant, but gratifying in its natural beauty and simplicity. Buńuel shoots realistic scenes like hog slaughtering, which add to the setting's effectiveness. Catalina is very much a part of this life. The opening scene shows her shooting at buzzards with her rifle. The audience has an insight into her character just from these actions. A lady with gumption shoots a rifle. This is Alejandro's world too. Alejandro scoffs at Isabel's (Lilia Prado) timid reactions to the workings of the ranch.

     Another adaptation of Emily Brontė's classic is William Wyler's 1939 film, Wuthering Heights. Staying true to the novel, although filmed in southern California, Wyler's film is set in the moors of northern England. Wyler was particularly successful in representing the stark contrast between Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights. Thrushcross Grange is grand and elegant, bright and clean. Wuthering Heights is bare and rustic, dusty and cold. The personalities of the characters reflect the environs in which they live, just as they do in the novel. The inhabitants of the Grange, Edgar and Isabella Linton (David Niven and Geraldine Fitzgerald}, are gentle and compassionate; but their neighbors from Wuthering Heights, Hindley and Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff (Hugh Williams, Merle Oberon, and Laurence Olivier), are sullen and temperamental.

     Wyler's characters might have been too picture-perfect and restrained in passion, but the setting is true to the original story. In the novel, Cathy and Heathcliff are left mainly to their selves; and the affection they feel for each other grows into obsessive love, with only the bitter winter gales and sweet summer winds as their guides. England or Mexico, desert or moors, both film adaptations of Emily Brontė's 1847 novel, Wuthering Heights, successfully set the mood for this tempestuous love story.

Jenni Sizemore

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