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Wuthering HeightsFirst U.S. edition, 1848

Wuthering Heights

Publication details ▽ Publication details △

First publication
1847 in England

Literary form
Novel

Genres
Literary

Writing language
English

Author's country
England

Length
Approx. 116,000 words

Wuthering Heights (1992) scene
Juliette Binoche and Ralph Fines are a surprisingly fine Catherine and Heathcliffe in 1992 film version.

Wuthering Heights

THE NOVEL | THE TEXT | THE MOVIES

1939, 1992, 2009

The heights of torment

Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights (1992): Also called Wuthering Heights; director Pewter Kosminsky; writer Anne Devlin; featuring Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Binoche, Janet McTeer, Jeremy Northam

There have been about a dozen film and television adaptations of Wuthering Heights since the famed 1939 movie, but one of the most interesting is the 1992 movie that bills itself as Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. (Apparently they had to get around copyright issues, since rights to just "Wuthering Heights" were owned by the studio that did the 1939 film.

This retelling of the story keeps the narrative simplicity of the 1939 film, but has the story briefly introduced by Brontë herself (a cameo by singer Sinéad O'Connor). Otherwise this Wuthering Heights is relatively faithful to the novel.

In fact, it's better than the 1939 film, and—and here's a shocker—possibly better than the novel.

For one thing, it has Ralph Fines as Heathcliff. He's perfect—as a young man a rough-hewn but sensitive character we can well imagine Catherine committing herself to protect and love forever, and as an older man the profoundly tormented individual who is turned into a chillingly cold villain. The transformation is believable, as are his relapses into obsessive love behaviour.

The same goes for Juliette Binoche as Catherine. She too is mesmerizing, in a manner not expected of this actress, known for her offbeat roles. In some ways her character is more difficult to portray, as she must vacillate between expressing the deep bond with Heathcliff and being attracted to the advantages of the aristocratic life that she and Heathcliff appear to disdain.

And she pulls it off. In the scenes with Fines particularly, she's adorably compulsive watching. (The two actors would pair again a few years later in another romance, The English Patient, but not as each other's love interest.)


Heathcliff's torment over Catherine's death in 1992 adaptation of Wuthering Heights.

This version of Wuthering Heights does continue past Catherine's death and makes the next generation's events appear an integral part of the story. Using Binoche to play the younger Cathy, however, yields mixed results: she keeps reminding us (and Heathcliff, no doubt) of the late Catherine, which may be seen as either a good thing or a bad thing.

But overall this is a brilliant adaptation. A film that really deserves to be a "classic" if critics—who generally gave the film negative reviews and had probably never read the book since school days—can get over the Olivier version that usually (and undeservedly) gets that honour.

It could be renamed Better Than Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights.

— Eric McMillan

THE NOVEL | THE TEXT | THE MOVIES

1939, 1992, 2009

See also:

Author
Charlotte Brontë

Novel
Jane Eyre

Movies
Jane Eyre

Movies
Frankenstein

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