The Interpretations of Wyler and Buñuel

        Of the two adaptations of Emily Brontë’s 1847 novel Wuthering Heights to film we viewed this semester, I thought William Wyler's version of the same title was superior. It was released in 1939, fifteen years before Luis Buñuel's Los Abismos de Pasión. The two are similar in that they are based off the same novel, but that is where I see the similarities end. The two directors portray the story in considerably different ways. Much of that fact is undoubtedly attributed to the different countries in which the two films were produced, but at the same time the directors have two distinct styles and make the story their own.

        I thought the most important aspect of the novel, which I considered superior to both films, was the setting. It defined the characters, was a vital part of the plot, and set the whole atmosphere and mood of the story. I believe Wyler best mirrored this superb setting in his film. I thought the setting in both the novel and Wyler's version was a significant part of the story; this was missing from Buñuel's version. The moors of England are replaced by the barren landscape of Mexico. It seems somewhat desolate, the trees are sparse and dead, but the result is not the same. The setting seems unimportant and does not add to the gloomy atmosphere and the sense of isolation I witnessed in the novel and Wyler's film. It has little effect on the characters and the strict social classes of England that prevented Heathcliff and Catherine from marrying are lost in Los Abismos de Pasión.

        One key element that I also thought Buñuel's version lacked was the beginnings of the story. Los Abismos de Pasión begins when Alejandro and Catalina are already grown up. There is no sense of past in the story. Not only does this make the proceedings in the film a bit more confusing, but the story loses an emotional layer. We do not see the two lovers as children or the transformation of Alejandro. I do believe Buñuel captured the essence of the characters better than Wyler did, but the actors failed capitalize on this.

        The different film versions of the novel Wuthering Heights are a good example of different ways one can adapt a literary work to celluloid. While I prefer William Wyler's 1939 version, both films have their strengths and weaknesses, as can be said for most works of films and literature.

Darryl Brandon Clark