Missing Essence

     It is hard to portray a writer's essence of a book when trying to convey it to a cinematic adaptation. When there is a cinematic adaptation of a book, people automatically know that the movie is not going to be the same as the book. If one were to look at the history of cinematic adaptation, he or she would see a pattern of departure when being compared to the book. For example, I read Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell, about a hundred times; and of course it was after I had seen the movie. While reading the book, I became amazed at how much detail the producer, David O. Selznick, and director, Victor Fleming, failed to portray in the movie. The movie did not portray Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) as a mother of three or that innocent Melanie (Olivia de Havilland) had secret thoughts of her own about Rhett Butler (Clark Gable). Of course Gone With the Wind is a long book, and Hollywood has to keep the movies short enough so not to lose their audiences, but the spirit of the book is lost.

     The same year the movie adaptation of Gone With the Wind premiered in America in 1939, the movie version of Wuthering Heights, directed by William Wyler, premiered as well. While growing up, I saw the movie Wuthering Heights numerous of times. In my mind this movie was a classic and one of the best movies of all times, until I had the chance of reading the book. I read the book with the predisposition of what I had perceived from the movie. I was again amazed of the context the movie failed to portray. To me the movie neglected the brilliancy behind the writing of Emily Brontė. I was expecting to read the movie version of the way, as a young woman, Catherine looked through the window of the Lintons, seeing a grand ball they were giving, and like Cinderella she became a part of a fairy tale. I expected to see the cliff or the moors that Heathcliff and Catherine always raced off to, but I read another story all together.

     There were no cliffs or moors to which Heathcliff and Catherine ran; and, unlike the story of Cinderella, this book is no fairy tale. Brontė's book is full of morbid description and violence. The nature of revenge of Heathcliff and the nature of Brontė entire book is not characterized in the Hollywood version of her book. The viewing audience does not perceive the whole context of Heathcliff's revenge on the generations comprised in her book. Also Brontė's leaves it up to the reader's imagination to fill in the intently left out portions of her book, such as the relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine. The mystery behind the writings of Brontė's book is what makes this book brilliantly written.

     The cinematic adaptation of Wuthering Heights fills in the audiences' or the readers' imagination. When watching the movie, I realized that the love-hate relationship of Cathy (Sarita Wooten/Merle Oberon) and Heathcliff (Rex Downing/Laurence Olivier) is no longer a mystery to the viewer, taking way the essence of Brontė's story. The movie fills in the viewer's imagination, of which the reader remains complex over when reading the book. I believe the cinematic adaptation of Wuthering Heights could have been more refined if the producer, director, and script writer had conveyed the enigma of Emily Brontė's writing instead of the replacing the imaginations of the viewing audience.

Whitney Hickman

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