We Now Return to Los Abismos de Pasion

         Was it just me or did Luis Buñuel's 1954 film Los Abismos de Pasion seem reminiscent of a cheesy Spanish soap opera? I came to appreciate Emily Brontë's 1847 novel Wuthering Heights much more after sitting through Buñuel's version of the book. The changes in the story and the over-the-top acting made this movie downright laughable which was not the director's intention.

         There are so many differences between this film and Brontë's novel that I am not sure where to start. First we have Eduardo (Ernesto Alonzo) collecting butterflies and impaling them on needles, proclaiming to Catalina (Irasema Dilian) that they do not suffer. Keep in mind this takes place after the glorious opening scene in which a wake of buzzards are scared out of a tree by gunfire. Is this a version of Wuthering Heights, or did I stumble upon an episode of Wild Kingdom? What happened to Lockwood coming to Wuthering Heights and learning about Heathcliff/Alejandro? How about showing us Catalina and Alejandro (Jorge Mistral) as children so that we know about their past relationship? Let us not forget the climactic ending in which Ricardo (Luis Aceves Castaneda) shoots Alejandro next to Catalina's coffin. Let the confusion begin.

         Besides the blatant differences between this film version and the novel, I found the acting so amplified and artificial that it was just too distracting to really get into the movie. I was immediately reminded of a recurring skit on Saturday Night Live in which Jon Lovitz played a character called Master Thespian. After bellowing out his lines he would pause and proclaim, "Acting!" Now I am aware that different cultures approach things differently and that Spanish audiences may have found the acting in this film acceptable. It just really was not my cup of tea. I would not have been surprised to see Alejandro break in the middle of one of his famous neck kisses, stare straight into the camera, raise his eyebrows two or three times, and then return to the kiss.

         All in all, as if it is not obvious by now, I did not enjoy this film very much. I did get several unintended laughs out of it. But, if I have to make a choice between the two, I would gladly read the book over again. Well, not gladly, but I would read it.

Adam Hlava

Table of Contents