Keep it in Written Words

         William Wyler’s 1939 film adaptation of Emily Brontë’s 1847 Wuthering Heights did the novel no justice. The book left a reader’s imagination to create the storyline, but the film did not fulfill the audience’s mindset. The film seemed void, forced, and nonetheless melodramatic, all which led to a negative remaking.

         The novel, which was not spectacular to me, came up on top after I had viewed the film. Obviously, scenes need to be cut and characters’ parts need to be shortened in the production of a movie, but this impaired the storyline. Granted, keeping characters straight in the novel was somewhat of a daunting task; however, the lack of in-depth background characters in the film created a neglected, incomplete character cast. Lockwood, played by Miles Mander, was not the main narrator in the film, Hindley, as depicted by Hugh Williams, was more of a background character, and the lack of the elderly Earnshaws was disappointing in the film. Mr. and Mrs. Earnshaw’s deaths were nonexistent, and in addition Frances and Hareton were left out of the script. All these cast members played a part to bring the novel together, and when they were not as focused upon enough in the film, it created the feeling of emptiness. On the other hand, it is wise to highlight the main characters, but some wandering from these characters never fully hinders the plot either.

         In addition, the acting in the film was not aiding the already dissatisfying plot. One must take into account that it was filmed in 1939, but Wyler’s continuous demands for retakes made the characters, their actions, emotions and ultimately, the movie seem forced. Perhaps, they were supposed to be portrayed this way, or the numerous retakes snatched the genuine quality away. Dialogue did not flow naturally, and actions, such as hand movements looked over practiced and extremely thought-out. This led to an atypical adaptation of what the novel suggested to the readers.

         Lastly, Wyler yet again marred the film with his directing for over dramatization. Movies produced over sixty years are going to be fairly different from the typical, modern day shows, but there is no need for characters to act melodramatic. It gives no sense of integrity, which in fact became quite a nuisance as the film progressed. The women were more to blame for this than the male characters, but nevertheless, it led to very few genuine scenes. One fine example would be the “love” between Cathy and Heathcliff. Heathcliff’s liking of Cathy appeared to be more obsession and sinister than actual love, but she flung herself at him anyways.

         Throughout the book, a reader was capable of creating what he/she imagined the characters looked like and acted like. Most readers are not going to picture overdramatic and forced characters. We look for natural acting and real senses of love because that is one hope society wants to truly believe in and be in presence of; love. The movie simply did not create that feeling, which was a major flaw. Also, the lack of other in-depth characters within the script left another void that Wyler could have filled by finding ways to incorporate them more efficiently, therefore creating a better-rounded storyline. The film may not have held up to my expectations; however, I am glad to have watched it, because now I can honestly agree with people when they state, “Read the book; it is so much better.”

Alicia Cassady

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