Buņuel Wild versus Wyler Tame

         Having studied Spanish culture and language at Murray State for four consecutive semesters, I really enjoyed the 1954 film Los Abismos de Pasion, directed by Luis Buñuel. Being exposed to the Spanish language for two whole years placed me more advanced when viewing this film. I had to read some of the subscripts during the movie, but I understood many of the conversations between the characters. I am thankful that I had participated in learning another language, especially a well-known one like Spanish. However, the 1939 movie Wuthering Heights, directed by William Wyler, and 1938 screenplay, by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, was more similar to the 1847 novel Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë. There were many differences in the film between Los Abismos de Pasion and Wuthering Heights.

         First of all, Los Abismos de Pasion took place in a harsher, more desert-like and Hispanic style surrounding comparing to the Wuthering Heights, which was more of a ranch and hilly environment, similar to what Emily Brontë describes in her book, although the film was shot in Southern California.

         Also, in keeping with the harsher setting, Los Abismos de Pasion originally introduced the main characters--Catherine (Catalina, played by Irasema Dillian), Heathcliff (Alejandro, portrayed by Jorge Mistral) and Hindley (Ricardo, depicted by Luis Aceves Castenada)--as more abrasive adults as contrasted with Brontë's book and Wyler's movie. Luis Buñuel, the director of Los Abismos de Pasion, began the movie with Catherine, Heathcliff and Hindley as older adults. If Buñuel had begun with the children and shown them growing up, as Brontë and Wyler had done the viewers might have had a better understanding of and sympathy for the kind of relationships that developed among the main characters--Catherine (Sarita Wooten/Merle Oberon), Heathcliff (Rex Downing/Laurence Oliver), and Hindley (Douglas Scott/Hugh Williams). For example, Heathcliff's childhood was very difficult after Hindley and Catherine's father had passed away. Hindley became the ruler of the house; and, since he did not like Heathcliff, he made Heathcliff do all of the rigorous chores and duties. Also Heathcliff and Catherine's relationship for each other was very evident in their years as children to young adults, so it is easier to have sympathy for them as adults.

         Other main characters were meaner in the Spanish version than they were in Wyler's version and even often in the book. For example, Mistral's Alejandro and Hortensia Santoveña's Maria (Ellen) were meaner and more physical in Los Abismos de Pasion than were Olivier's Heathcliff and Flora Robson's Maria. Unlike Wyler's and Brontë's Heathcliff, Alejandro would abruptly grab Isabel (Isabella) (Lilia Prado) by the arm or give her passionate neck kisses, while he made sure that Catalina was viewing from the window. In contrast to Wyler's and Brontë's Ellen, Maria was more vocal and rude towards Catalina (Catherine). For example, Maria would yell at Catalina for toiling with Alejandro's emotions.

         Again, I really enjoyed both films, and I am very thankful for my Spanish professors and what they had taught me. Watching Los Abismos de Pasion, I was able to take what I had learned in the classroom to great use. I was able to appreciate the more violently Hispanic version on its own terms, as compared with the tamer American-English version, filmed by Wyler.

Kyla DeHay

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