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Wuthering Heights

CRITIQUE | NOTABLE LINES | THE TEXT | THE MOVIES

1939, 1992, 2009, 2022

Wuthering HeightsFirst U.S. edition, 1848
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 (2009) scene
American actor Bryan Ferriter is a convincing Heathcliff in the 2022 film of Wuthering Heights he also directed.

As Emily wrote it

Wuthering Heights (2022): Director Bryan Ferriter; writer Jordyn Auvil; featuring Bryan Ferriter, Jet Jandreau, Brock Forrette, Nathan Mills, Mary Riitano, Ryan Pfeiffer, Bella DeLong

After sitting through all the highly produced adaptations of Wuthering Heights, starring acclaimed—usually British—actors, I've developed a fondness for this most recent, lower budgeted independent production headed by a lesser known American actor and director.

Bryan Ferriter's Wuthering Heights offers surprisingly rich depictions of Emily Brontė's characters by remaining surprisingly faithful to the book. Most film or television screenplays of the convoluted novel of overheated passions treat the original text liberally to focus on what they consider the heart of the story—understandably—but this one manages to include each beat of the author's narrative and character developments. The only notable departures from the novel I could detect seemed to concern matters that I'm guessing financing made difficult to pull off.

The film's inclusiveness has led some viewers to complain about the slow rising action in the early going of this two and a half-hour production. But anyone who sits back and lets the film proceed at its own pace is rewarded with just about the purest version of Wuthering Heights they're likely to find on any screen.

It's all the more surprising to learn the film was shot in Ferriter's native Montana, far from the Yorkshire moors that the fictional Heathcliff and Catherine roamed. One might wonder whether Ferriter being raised in this western state gave him a special feel for the rural isolation and wild environment that are so much a part of the novel—and this movie.


Trailer for Bryan Ferriter's Wuthering Heights adaptation of 2022.

The beginning of the film plays like a Gothic horror story, much as the novel does, with Lockwood, the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange meeting his landlord, at Wuthering Heights on a stormy night. For the first five minutes of the landlord's appearance his face is hidden from viewers until dramatically revealed as the face of Heathcliff. Lockwood stays for dinner with the house's surly inhabitants. As the weather continues to rage outside, he stays overnight in the dark house, featuring a secret passage, a hidden room, mysterious messages scratched on the walls, and a freaky visit from a ghostly figure at the window pane pleading to be let in.

Later, Heathcliff's housekeeper, Nelly, starts telling Lockwood the history of the Earnshaw family and their adopted boy Heathcliff—one of several narratives within narratives taken from the novel. From there the story unfolds, more or less, as in the original, showing how Heathcliff the boy was treated, the growing love of Heathcliff the young man and Catherine, his ultimate rejection, his flight from Wuthering Heights, his return as a wealthy man, and the revenge he wreaks on several generations.

Throughout, Ferriter makes a memorable Heathcliff, appropriately compelling both sympathy and repulsion. (I have a slight suspicion he might have been an even more intense Heathcliff—who knows?—if he didn't have to direct at the same time, though in truth he handles both assignments very well.)

Other actors, mainly drawn from the United States and known more for their stage work than for movies, are less magnetic—again perhaps appropriately so. But they competently drive the story forward without any distracting major star turns. In short, they all serve the dark story well.

My only criticism may be that the musical score is relentless—dark and throbbing through nearly every scene.

Though I imagine Emily Brontë would have loved it.

— Eric McMillan

 

CRITIQUE | NOTABLE LINES | THE TEXT | THE MOVIES

1939, 1992, 2009, 2022

See also:

Author
Charlotte Brontė

Novel
Jane Eyre

Movies
Jane Eyre

Movies
Frankenstein

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