Culture Plays Important Role in Romance on the Screen

         Public displays of affection are common in all cultures. There are certain "norms" that different cultures abide by. This principal was very evident in the American film Wuthering Heights, directed in 1939 by William Wyler, and the Spanish version Los Abismos de Pasion, directed in 1954 by Luis Bunuel, both of which were based on Emily Brontė's 1847 novel, Wuthering Heights. The American culture, especially in 1939, was less likely to accept romantic feelings expressed on the movie screen. Public displays of affection were thought of as obscene. Extensive kissing and touching were not appropriate for the American audience. Today these principles do not apply to the movie industry. Movie producers can take romantic scenes to the extreme. The movie principle differs from the way American society engages in displays of affection. It is generally not proper to engage in public displays of affection in front of other people.

         The Spanish culture is very different. It is common for friends, male and female, to kiss each other in public places. The Spanish culture is much more passionate. It is not offensive for a man to tell a strange woman that she is beautiful in a public place; this is a compliment. An American would find this to be a very offensive action. Many conversations in the Spanish culture take place within inches of each person's face. Most Americans would prefer to stand several feet away from the person they are conversing with. These differences are what define one culture from another.

         In Los Abismos de Pasion, the characters in the movie were much more affectionate with one another. Alejandro (Jorge Mistral) and Catalina (Irasema Dilian) shared several long kisses on screen, unlike Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) and Cathy (Merle Oberon) in Wyler's film. Different body language was also expressed in both versions of the film. The characters in the American film did not use a lot of body language. Most romantic scenes were composed of dialogue, and a quick kiss might end the scene. In the Spanish version Alejandro would passionately grab Catalina and pour out her his feelings.

         It was very evident that touching was much more acceptable in the Spanish film than in the American film at the time these respective films were made.

Whitney Alexander

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