Ghost Before Death

         According to French dramatist, Molière, "To live without loving is not really to live," and this concept certainly applies to Emily Brontë's 1847 story of the relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw. In her 1847 book Wuthering Heights, Brontë makes it apparent at the death of Catherine, Heathcliff is heartbroken and most simply put, dying inside. However, when put into movie form, words are not enough to express these feelings. In the making of numerous film versions of Wuthering Heights, the actor portraying Heathcliff must manage to take on the appropriate appearance in order to show just how truly depressed this character becomes. Furthermore, while Laurence Olivier's portrayal in the 1939 version was excellent and strong, it seems that Ralph Fiennes (1992 version, directed by Peter Kominsky) was more successful in physically appearing cold and heartbroken.

         In the original version, Heathcliff (Olivier) returns from America with the appearance of a gentleman; he is well dressed and usually very clean cut, and remains this way throughout the film, even after Catherine's death. However, Fiennes' Heathcliff in the 1992 version looks more distraught and "run down" throughout the film. It is much more obvious in this version that Heathcliff has had a difficult life, and after Catherine's (Juliette Binoche) death, no longer cares about anything or anyone, including himself. His hair is long and unkempt, like the heavy dark jacket with which he covers himself, whereas Olivier's Heathcliff usually has his hair neatly combed and somewhat clean, in addition to his fine clothes.

         Fiennes' portrayal of Heathcliff seems much more successful, as well as believable due to the fact that, when a person experienc/es a terrible situation or has had his/her heart broken, such as Heathcliff has experienced, he/she rarely feels like getting out of bed in the morning. Furthermore, Olivier's Heathcliff seems to continue taking pride in himself and his ability to make others unhappy; but, Fiennes' is more what I envision the character of Heathcliff needing to look like. It seems more obvious there is no life left in him after Catherine's death; and he is only a bitter, depressed ghost of a man, waiting to rejoin her while in the meantime, preferring to only see others suffer the way he has.

Alexis Dixon

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