Passion for Death

     Emily Brontė's immortal 1847 classic, Wuthering Heights, has seen many twists and turns as Hollywood has taken the story on its own terms. Now it is time for other cultures to take a stab at the story.

     In Los Abismos de Pasion, directed in 1954 by Luis Buńuel, Mexicans have taken the basic plot and run wild. This movie shows true key elements of Mexican culture, not the Americanized ones such as sombreros, Maruichi bands or the Taco Bell dog. One characteristic that stands above the rest is the Mexican fascination with death and the beyond. They even have a holiday called Morte de Dia (Day of the Dead), celebrating the act of dying and remembering loved ones.

     It is believed that on this specific day, the spirits of the dead come back to the world of the living to visit their loved ones and family. Much like the American celebration of Halloween, Morte de Dia often included people dressing in costumes and skeleton decorations are hung. People also light candles and place flowers on their loved ones' graves to remember them. The allusions to death shown in Los Abismos de Pasion alludes to the personalities of the characters and foreshadows what is about to unfold in the plot.

     The first example shown in the movie is when Catalina (Cathy), played by Irasema Dilian, is first introduced to the audience shooting buzzards in a tree. Her strong-willed personality shows through in this simple action. She is as cold-hearted to those birds as her infatuated lover Alejandro (Heathcliff), played by Jorge Mistral, is to people. Later in the movie, her sister-in-law Isabel, played by Lilia Prado, shies away from seeing a pig slaughtered. She is far too weak to withstand Alejandro's will, and it causes her to have her heart broken when caught in Alejandro's cold clutches of matrimony.

     The foreshadowing in the movie prominently stands out when Alejandro gets in a fight with Ricardo (Hindley), played by Luis Aceves Castaeda, when Alejandro leaves the room, Ricardo throws an insect into a spider's web. This foreshadows Ricardo eventually taking care of his dept with a shotgun. He knows Alejandro has a strong case of necrophilia and will use it to his advantage. He waits in the shadows until Alejandro walks into Catalina's crypt and covers up the murder easily. Ricardo may be a drunken loser, but he is the spider in many ways, weaving a web of deception in order to coax his prey to its demise.

     The closing shoot of Alejandro and Catalina joined together in death has a large impact on the audience. It is actually beautiful in its own twisted way and preserves Mexican beliefs about the dead.

Krista Matheny

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