Cinematic Softening

         In Emily Brontë's 1847 book, Wuthering Heights, there was a certain mood set that gave readers a sense of darkness and sadness throughout most of the book. I feel that, when one makes a movie out of a book, the mood should be presented in the same fashion because the mood is what sets the tone for the entire movie. When William Wyler made a movie adaptation of Wuthering Height in 1939, he and the other film makers, such as scriptwriters, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, did not keep the same mood that Brontë established in her novel.

         In the book, the mood was very dark; and it really did not change throughout the span that the movie covered, which includes the first half of the book from Heathcliff's and Catherine's childhood all the way to Catherine's death. In the movie the mood was lighter than in the book because there were much happier events than those expressed in the book. Also, when good things seemed to happen in the book, there was still a character that just kept the scene dark. For example, when Catherine was over at the Lintons, she was very happy, although in the book it was much clearer that she missed her beloved, brooding, unhappy Healthcliff than it was in the movie, as Merle Oberon depicted Catherine.

         The movie adaptation also changes the mood by letting the characters be more lighthearted and not as rough around the edges as they were portrayed in the book. Heathcliff had the most changed personality of all. As he was depicted by Laurence Olivier, I feel that he was not as depressed and tortured as the book presented him to be. I felt that he was presented as a much nicer person in the movie. For example, in the movie Heathcliff was very nice and loving to Cathy as she was dying. In the book it was different; he behaved rather poorly and was quite mean to Cathy.

         Although I did not like what the director and the other film makers did to change the movie from the book, I do think that overall it was a good movie. I can understand why the mood was changed. This was done because at that time, during the depression and the threat of war in Europe, film makers were under the impression that people do not want to sit through a horribly depressing movie, and people also needed comic relief. I think that Wyler was a genius and knew how to make the movie enjoyable for all people. However, I just do not think it was a good adaptation of the book because he altered the mood by making scenes softer and also changed the characters' personalities by making them more palatable.

Jamison Carner

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