A Passionate Competition

         Screenwriter Wilson Mizner once said, "Some of the greatest love affairs I've known have involved one actor unassisted." This is certainly the case in the numerous screenplay versions of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. Anyone who knows the story of Wuthering Heights, I am sure recalls the 1847 character of "Heathcliff," or perhaps better known in Latin areas as "Alejandro." This character seems to have truly come from a dark place in Brontë's mind; for the love-tortured Heathcliff is so despicable and vengeful that it seems it would take just the right type of person to portray him on screen. Perhaps one of the biggest differences in this portrayal is between the 1939 Wuthering Heights, directed by William Wyler, and its 1954 Latin version, Los Abismos de Pasion, directed by Luis Buñuel. While both movies succeed in portraying this character as a harsh and brutal man, they do it in two somewhat different ways. Laurence Olivier portrays Heathcliff as a clever and psychologically abusive man in Wuthering Heights, whereas Jorge Mistral portrays Alejandro as more spontaneous and physically abusive in Los Abismos de Pasion.

         Upon Heathcliff's return in Wyler's movie, he goes to Thrushcross Grange, behaving as a gentleman to see Catherine, played by Merle Oberon, and is greeted accordingly. However, in Los Abismos de Pasion, Mistral's Alejandro demands to see Catalina (Irasema Dillian), and Maria refuses to let him into the house. A couple moments later, Alejandro crashes through a window in order to gain entry into the house. It is in facing these onscreen obstacles throughout the story that one can see a difference in the personalities of these separate portrayals. In this instance Alejandro refuses to take "no" for an answer, whereas Heathcliff probably would have agreed to leave at the time and allowed his intellect to help him figure out a way of getting what he wanted sooner or later.

         It is apparent both of these versions of Heathcliff are filled with hate and anger; but, when Isabel, portrayed by Lilia Prado, comes to live with Alejandro, one can almost see even a difference in humanity. Alejandro does not even allow Isabel to sleep near his room, much less in the same room as he; in fact she is taken to an old, trash-filled room. Furthermore, I noticed that it seems as if Alejandro does not even acknowledge that Isabel exists. In Wuthering Heights, when Isabella, played by Geraldine Fitzgerald, comes to live with Heathcliff he is at least a little more humane towards her. However, it is still obvious he despises her because at times it seems he actually goes out of his way to say something to hurt Isabella, but I think she was probably just glad he at least acknowledged her. I believe the main differences in these personalities lie in this: if Alejandro did not have a strong physical relationship with a person (whether for love or hate), that person simply did not exist to him. But Heathcliff's personality made him the type of person who, instead of bothering with physical matters, simply preferred to go after the heart and mind of all those around him.

         In my opinion, it is the manner in which this character copes with pain and loss that can either make or break him. In addition to this thought, I feel this may be an important aspect in how certain individuals perceive these movies. If certain people prefer more action and physical confrontation in a character, they would probably get more enjoyment out of watching Jorge Mistral's "Alejandro" on screen in Los Abismos de Pasion. If one wants to witness the consequences of a more excruciating emotional torture, Laurence Olivier's "Heathcliff" would suit one better.

Alexis Dixon

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