Director's Landscape Vision

         William Wyler's 1939 cinematic adaptation of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, written in 1847, was excellent. He was able to tailor the plot to tell a story of a romantically starved and lust-driven madman. Wyler showed the wealth of the countryside through excellent use of the landscape with a superb sunset when Heathcliff, played by Laurence Olivier, and Catherine, portrayed by Merle Oberon, are at their "castle."

         From the beginning of the film, Wyler shows the landscape of rolling moorland from nearly every angle. The variation between the opening blizzard that covers the moors in snow to a bright sunshiny day that allows the children to play in a field with their horses is one such example of Wyler's creativity. Even with the film in black and white, the characters' reactions to the area really helped me to imagine the colors that may have been present on the moor. From my perspective, I could see not only the green grass but also the yellows of weeds, and the gray of stones that are strung over the ground. Though the same area is being filmed, each of the shots that are mentioned is a different landscape due to elements that Wyler used to help dramatize the plot to make the film more romantic.

         A good example of the importance of landscape is the location of the "castle" when Heathcliff and Catherine are there first as children, depicted by Rex Downing and Sarita Wooten; then adults; and ultimately as ghost-acted ghosts. The jagged rock that can be seen looks small when they are children, but it also seems to grow as they do as they continue to visit the pillar. As ghosts are in the final scene, the rock looks more like a mountain--snow covered and ancient.

         Without the landscape that it had, I do not think the story could have developed in the film as it did. Wide and expansive, yet exclusive and hidden at the same time, the landscape plays a role in the plot. When Catherine and Heathcliff run to the "castle" because Hindley, acted by Douglas Scott as a child and Hugh Williams as an adult, had expressed his dislike for Heathcliff, they run and hide. When Heathcliff and Catherine are older and Heathcliff chases Catherine out of the house, she is far off; but he could still see her.

         The importance landscape plays with the film helps to support the actions that some of the characters take, to the viewers who may not have read the novel or screenplay.

Bennett Moore

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