Wuthering Heights: The Search for a Soul Mate

     I believe that almost everyone in this world longs to find his or her soul mate. Even though I can be quite a cynic at times where love is concerned, I know that I hope to find my soul mate someday. In fact, my favorite film What Dreams May Come, perfectly depicts the kind of love that I hope to find. I believe that Emily Brontė's 1847 novel, Wuthering Heights, helped to set the standard for films such as this by so eloquently portraying two very powerful characters that are not only in love but are connected to each other in a way that is almost spiritual. Catherine and Heathcliff are indeed soul mates.

     Heathcliff's fear of living a life without Catherine is one of only a few concepts that I believe remained true to the novel when it was adapted into motion pictures. In both the 1939 American film adaptation of Wuthering Heights, directed William Wyler, and the 1954 Spanish adaptation, Los Abismos de Pasion, directed by Luis Buńuel, we see Heathcliff's complete emotional breakdown when he hears from Ellen of Catherine's death. I believe that the following lines are the most poignant of the book and films; they perfectly describe the love and connection that Catherine and Heathcliff shared for each other.

     "I pray one prayer--I repeat it till my tongue stiffens--Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest, as long as I am living! You said I killed you--haunt me then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe--know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always--take any form--drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, without my life! I cannot live without my soul" (143)!

     I believe that the main reason this scene has remained in both adaptations of the book is that it epitomizes Catherine and Heathcliff's relationship. Regardless of their fights, or their marriages into the Linton family, Catherine and Heathcliff were still connected, and they understood each other in a way that no one else ever could. Catherine recognizes this even before she marries Edgar, when she exclaims to Ellen: "Nelly, I am Heathcliff" (70)!

     Even though the book is obviously the original story of Catherine and Heathcliff, the cinematic adaptations of this book attempt to hold on to this concept that Catherine and Heathcliff are soul mates, though they both fail to capture the chemistry that Brontė created between these star-crossed lovers.

     The American film adaptation of Wuthering Heights indeed was a classic. However, not only was there poor casting (though I will say that Laurence Olivier was aptly cast), overall there seemed to be a poor interpretation of Brontė's novel. The characters found in this film, both in emotional and physical characterization, did not seem to match the characters we find in the novel in any way, shape or form. When looking at the actors portraying Catherine (Sarita Wooten/Merle Oberon) and Heathcliff (Rex Downing/Laurence Olivier), I found that it was very difficult to feel the connection from the screen that we feel from reading the novel. This may have had something to do with the style of movie acting at the time, but in any case, this version was not very emotionally gripping in my opinion.

     When looking at the Spanish version of the novel, Los Abismos de Pasion, I felt that the actors cast were really on-target in portraying these characters, both physically and emotionally. The cast for this film was nearly identical to what I had envisioned in the novel, right down to hair color. The relationship between Catherine (Catalina), played by Irasema Dilian, and Heathcliff (Alejandro), depicted by Jorge Mistral, in this film was so much more powerful than that of the American version--one could get a sense of that connection between the actors that were portraying Catherine and Heathcliff.

     I must say that the concept of soul mates was at the heart of Brontė's novel, and this notion seemed to remain in the films that were created. I believe that this was reflected in the cinematic adaptations of Wuthering Heights, although more convincingly in the Spanish one, simply because there are many people out there like me, and they too want to find their soul mate. That is what makes Wuthering Heights so incredibly powerful.

Erica Hulse

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