(2009, ITV mini-series)
The Emily Bronte novel Wuthering Heights has always been nearly impossible to
translate into a film suitable for the 20th century sensibilities. The greatest
problem is that every single major character is base, vengeful, and despicable.
Cathy is a spoiled brat. Edgar is a wimp; he and his sister bores. Hindley is a
pompous, insufferable bully cut from the Dickensian cloth. First and foremost,
Heathcliffe is a monster who abuses various innocent people including his own
wife and son in pursuit of revenge for the wrongs he has suffered.
Most of the previous interpretations of the story have mitigated
Heathcliffe's malice somewhat by avoiding the tale of the second generation,
thus failing to show how abusively Heathcliffe treated his own child and the
children of his step-siblings. This version takes a different tack entirely. It
not only portrays that abuse, but makes it seem even crueler by showing it all
right at the beginning of the story, which is unraveled out of its natural
chronology. Thus for 2/3 of the production Heathcliffe not only seems like an
utter ass, but seems to be behaving that way for no reason. It is only after we
have come to thoroughly despise him that the back-story is revealed, and we are
allowed to see that there was justification for his anger, if not for the
radical way that he expressed it.
The author of this teleplay did not just tinker with the chronology, but with
the narration as well, replacing the various literary POVs and diary accounts
with omniscient narration. The author also took the liberty of re-writing some
of Bronte's plot points. For example, Heathcliffe commits suicide by blowing his
brains out with a pistol. Ah, well ... all in the service of condensing a major
literary work into 180 minutes of melodrama.
The unpleasant tone of the show's first 2/3 is mitigated only slightly by a
brief moment of tenderness between Heathcliffe and Edgar's sister, which
includes a look at her very lovely right breast. The actress is