About two weeks ago, my friend good friend L and I finished reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. Since that time I have watched THREE movie adaptions of the book, the last two being made for television. First, we watched the 1970 version which barely attempted to stick to the story line. Next, I watched the two-part 2009 Masterpiece Classic, a much more entertaining movie, though definitely with liberties taken and reminding me of the romance novels in the checkout line at the grocery store. Last night, L and I watched the 1998 Masterpiece Theater version, which has been the most authentic to the story line of the three, though much shabbier of a film compared to the 2009.
All three films have two things in common to a certain degree: First, the actors are much too old for the story! When Hindley returns from college to use and abuse poor Heathcliff, Cathy and Heathcliff are only around 12 and 13. It just doesn't make sense for them to be in their early 30's! Second, and most interestingly, both Heathcliff and Cathy are... softened in their movie roles. I really don't get it. Just let them be the selfish, vengeful, violent, capricious, self-pitying fools that they are!
It's as if the directors read the book and thought, "No one will be able to like them enough to identify with them. The movie will be too depressing, but what we want is a tragedy that's also a love story. An enduring love story! Let's tweak this or that about their personalities and their choices. Let's interpret their motives to be always for the other instead of for themselves, then the audience will be able to love and hate them, not just pity them."
Well, as someone who actually read the book, I prefer them the way they're written. Real. Depraved. Tortured. Of course I wish there was redemption, though there is in a way with the next generation of children. Of course if I'd never read the book, I might prefer the two-part love novel movie and be sadly disappointed when reading the real story. But the sad truth is, it's a story that shows the brutality of human nature and self-love beating love for another into dust. It reminds me of what we are apart from Christ, and just how much grace is given us.
There are still two more versions (1939, supposedly quite good, and 1992) that I know of to be viewed. I'm sure I'll be completely sick of the whole thing by the time I finish them, but maybe one of them will be truer to the novel (and to life!) than what I've seen so far!