Mainstream versus Artistic

        William Wyler’s 1939 movie version of Emily Brontë’s 1847 Wuthering Heights is more mainstream than is Luis Buñuel’s 1954 film, Los Abismos de Pasion, which, however, kept the story nearer to what Emily Brontë had in mind when she wrote her novel.

        I think William Wyler’s intentions in the movie version Wuthering Heights were to make it a thought-provoking, almost film noir type movie. For example, along with his cinematographer, Gregg Toland, Wyler tried to regain the cinematic depth of field that was prevalent in earlier movies, but which had been lost in the movies of his time period. However, Wyler's artistic intentions were shut out by his producer, Samuel Goldwyn. William Wyler had the reputation of being a perfectionist. I think that, given the opportunity, he would have made the movie more realistic. Samuel Goldwyn wanted the movie to be sellable, which it was, and likable to the audience. It was made into a more mainstream movie so people would watch it, even to the extent that Mr. Goldwyn altered the ending of the movie after it was finished. He added a scene of Heathcliff and Cathy, acted by doubles of Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon, walking in to the mountains and disappearing to the end of the movie.

        Luis Buñuel’s adaptation of the movie, Los Abismos de Pasion, was more dramatic and darker in nature. The actors were more dramatic and darker in nature. Even the title of the movie is more dramatic when translated (The Abyss of Passion). His rendition of Emily Brontë’s novel Wuthering Heights was closer to how she wrote the book, and the overall feeling of the novel than William Wyler’s version. Alejandro played very dramatically by Jorge Mistral, who portrayed him as an angry, cynical person, who is finished taking the humiliation that everyone has cast upon him. We are not shown the younger years of Alejandro’s life in this film, but it is evident by his hatred of Ricardo (the Hindley character) (Luis Aceves Castaneda) that he was abused and ridiculed by him. My favorite part of the movie was the time when Alejandro crashed through the windows. I could not have imagined Laurence Olivier doing that with his refined portray of Heathcliff. Also the endings were very different in Mr. Wyler’s version. The characters (Heathcliff and Catherine) were seen walking through the mountains together as ghosts. This was a poor addition to the conclusion of a classic film. In Luis Buñuel’s Los Abismos de Pasion Catalina (Catherine) also dies, but Alejandro (Heathcliff) is killed instead of dying of a broken heart. He is gunned down by Ricardo (Hindley) after he breaks into Catalina’s (Catherine) tomb. These were such contrasting endings that it is amazing that they were based upon the same novel.

        To conclude I would like to say that I enjoyed both versions of the films. However, I do believe that I would have to say that Luis Buñuel’s version is closer to the novel. I think that it keeps with the gothic feeling of the book even though the setting was in Mexico. Lastly I think that bowing to the masses might give better ratings but definitely does not make the story necessarily better. Occasionally, like in this case the masses are not always right. I think that Los Abismos de Pasion kept the story nearer to what Emily Brontë had in mind when she wrote Wuthering Heights.

Kristin Anderson

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