The Mexicans Do It Better

     I have seen two film versions of Emily Brontė's 1847 novel,Wuthering Heights, an English and a Spanish version, Los Abismos de Pasion. The 1954 Spanish film, directed by Luis Buńuel, is far better than the 1939 English version, directed by William Wyler. The Spanish film captures Brontė's mood in the story and the essence of the characters, especially Heathciff and Catherine.

     The character of Heathcliff in the novel Wuthering Heights is despicable and bitter, with no redeeming qualities about him. He is truly a character who deserves no compassion from the reader. In the novel, a certain dark mood surrounded Heathcliff on every page he is mentioned. He is an evil person, so evil that he is a villain.

     I expected the English version of Wuthering Heights to portray Heathcliff as the villain Brontė intended him to be. While he was definitely not likeable, he had a certain aura about him that made him seem like a sympathetic character. Olivier's Heathcliff came across as a pretty boy. His dark and dramatic scenes lacked feeling and the bitterness of Heathcliff. Olivier's performance was almost laughable; he brought nothing to the role except a sort of fake tenderness, which did not suit the character of the story.

     In the Spanish version, Alejandro (Heathcliff), as played by Jorge Mistral, is much more believable. Instead of showing sympathy and fondness for Catalina (Cathy), as depicted by Irasema Dilian, he treats her with contempt. His facial expressions showed his resentment toward Catherine, unlike Olivier's character whose expressions showed remorse. The Spanish Heathcliff was not a sympathetic character, as how he was intended to be. His scenes with Isabel (Isabella), as portrayed by Lilian Prado, were especially good, as he treated her half with indifference and half with hatred. His disgust for Catherine was also clear.

     The two Catherines were also notably different. The actress in the English version (Merle Oberon) was too whiny. I disliked her but not because she made me hate her. I hated her because she did a terrible job in the role. For example, in her confrontation with Isabella (Geraldine Fitzgerald), she did nothing but pout. The Spanish actress, conversely, truly fought with Isabel in a convincing manner.

     The Spanish version of Wuthering Heights is much truer to Brontė's tale. The acting is far closer to the original characters. If Brontė were to see the English version of her story, she would turn over in her grave.

Krista Kimmel

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