Sunday, August 23, 2009

What Wendy Watched: wuthering, wuthering, etc etc

I have now watched two episodes of the 1978 BBC serial adaptation of Wuthering Heights. I have some concerns, mainly revolving around the fact that I don't think this is a novel that would adapt well to any visual medium. Despite that fact it seems people can't leave it alone.

Why couldn't they do better with the lighting. In episode one where Mr Lockwood rides over to visit Heathcliff and co it is a beautiful sunny day. Then suddenly - BOOM - massive rain event and all is darkness. I know storms do sometimes come out of nowhere, but this was extreme to the point of ridiculous. (The rain machine sends the rain almost horizontal. I have been to Bronteland when it was raining. It seemed to rain vertically like most other places. And the horizontal rain continued into Episode 2). Also, Mr Lockwood was standing in a nice bright firelight kitchen. Cue attacking dogs, who were clearly filmed in another dark location altogether and then the editor stitched the scene together. And then, let's not even go to the supernatural, freaking out Mr Lockwood appearance of Cathy at the window. Basically, it looked like a white light, the was too bright for the interior lighting so strobed across the scene. And if that branch had knocked against the window I would have reached for the fast forward. We get it! Tap, tap, tap - let me in. The same lighting problem goes for any scenes with the big fireplace in the Wuthering Heights kitchen. Everything is drowned out in orange. I can't believe they did this on purpose.

For overacting, see the drunken Hindley, heaving himself about the kitchen on numerous occasions. Excessive indeed. And quite frankly Cathy appears to be a right pain - biting and slapping people. Why Edgar Linton even bothered with her is terribly unclear. And if there had been one more scene of Heathcliff and Cathy running together about the moors, hair flying, in bare feet, it would have fast forward time again. Yes, right, they are one soul, whose love for each other transcends the formal rules of society etc etc.

Anyway, I'm up to the bit where Isabella Linton falls for Heathcliff, now that he has returned from his absence and tidied his hair up. She keeps herself busy flinging herself on the couch in tears as people warn her against him. And Cathy is being a manipulative little minx. Hindley continues to drink himself away in between whipping his son Hareton. So all is as it should be.

So far, I don't really recommend it, however I shall persevere. I think I need to check out the Ralph Fiennes version. Or watch this:

Read the book though. It's much better.


2paw said...

Although I appreciate Wuthering Heights, the book, in a literary way, I am not enamoured with it. I prefer Vanity Fair, Austen, The Leopard, etc. Though to be fair, Wuthering Heights has a much better song: I remember Kate Bush's song so well. I am of the Kate Bush song era!!!

Wendy said...

It used to be my least favourite of the Bronte novels. Then last year we read it at our bookclub and I found a liking for it I hadn't had when i first read it when I was much younger.
I am not quite of the Kate Bush song era - I have come to it at a later date. That dancing! Wonderfully eccentric and charming. (hope I don't sound patronising)

Catriona said...

The Brontes are a bit liminal, to me: definitely not with the eighteenth-century feel that even Austen's later works have, but not the big, sprawling, typical early to mid-Victorian novels that Dickens or Thackeray or Trollope wrote.

(I suspect it's partly because they, unlike most of the other canonical Victorian authors, managed to avoid serial publication.)

I do love Wuthering Heights; oddly, it's Jane Eyre that does my head in these days. I still like the book, but I wonder how I never noticed before what a dreary little creature Jane is.

Poor Mr Rochester--tied for life to that dull little puritan in her grey alpaca.

Becky Sharp would have eaten her alive, as she did Amelia.

(Now, there's an excellent adaptation for you, if you haven't seen that one yet.)

Wendy said...

yes strange isn't it. I remember when I first read Jane Eyre it totally freaked me out ( I was probably a little bit young) and then I went through a phase of loving it. Now I find it a little boring whereas Wuthering Heights has grown on me. I do actually like The Tenant of Wildfell Hall a lot too.

And Rochester is blind as well...he really can't take a trick can he?

I hadn't thought about their novels in terms of Victorian serialisation. Perhaps that's why they don't work for television, whereas Dickens does (in my humble opinion).

I think the physical and social isolation of the Brontes had a lot to do with their style and content as well. (although that may well be romanticising them.)

Catriona said...

I suspect the Victorian novelists who were serialised do work better on television, since serial fiction is so very much one of the progenitors of television drama: the ones who spring immediately to mind are Dickens (as you say), Thackeray (the Vanity Fair adaptation was excellent), George Eliot (Middlemarch was wonderful), Elizabeth Gaskell (I loved both Cranford and Wives and Daughters), and Anthony Trollope (The Barchester Chronicles, of course, but also The Way We Live Now).

Of course, the downside to this is that they don't work as films.

Then again, Austen missed serial publication, and her novels are lovely on the telly. So there's something missing from our otherwise flawless hypothesis.