Los Abismos de Pasion: Romance and Passion

         Noted Spanish surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel takes a stab at doing Emily Brontë in this 1954 low-budget black and white version filmed in Mexico. It is too talky and has an overwrought dramatization that is all about setting a fierce gothic mood of sexual fever and deep emotional swings but has little to do with Brontë's story and substitutes a barren landscape of Mexico for a repressed pre-Victorian English society. Buñuel paints a grim picture through troubling images of the dreary ranch and farm houses, the barren hills and desiccated trees, the wind-like heroine forced into accepting her ominous fate, the whipping rain storms, the buzzards making alarming noises in the yard and the deathlike prevailing atmosphere. The film maker follows the same story line as the 1939 William Wyler screen version but gives it an unmistakable smouldering Mexican flavouring that is not without interest even though it has a different flavour from Brontë's novel by distancing itself too far from its two outsider protagonists.

         The over-baked melodrama reaches a high pitch with Catalina (Iraseme Dilian) seeing Alejandro (Jorge Mistral), and the jealous Eduardo (Ernesto Alonzo) eventually telling her to choose between them while forbidding her to ever see Alejandro again. The pregnant Catalina chooses to stay and obey her hubby. Alejandro then puts plan No. 2 into play and lures the love sick animal-friendly sister of Eduardo, Isabel (Lilia Prado), to elope with him. Their marriage is one conceived in hell because the gullible Isabel lives in misery in the farmhouse, in a separate bedroom from her hateful husband, and is surrounded by Cathy's remaining family members who all fiercely despise her. To boot, Eduardo refuses to allow poor Isabel to return--telling his gossipy servant Maria (Hortensia Santoveña) that Isabel has got what she deserved.

         It is ultimately a story about how closely linked together are love and death (check out the sublime ending where a ghostly image of love turns into a shotgun blast) and how the weak characters are at the mercy of their basic instincts and uncontrollable passions. Buñuel pokes fun at the so-called civilized Eduardo and Isabel, and holds them up to ridicule for being so smug in their beliefs about goodness, while they are more capable of doing harm to others than are those who have made a pact with the Devil. Therefore, ironically, they will be saved in the end. However, Alejandro and Catalina are perceived as heathens, who have also lost their humaness by being overwhelmed by their passions, hatreds and fears. Though they cannot be saved in this world, Buñuel reserves a place for them in the afterlife where their deep love can be understood.

Evanthia Sotiriou

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