Wuthering Heights The story of unfortunate lovers Heathcliff and Cathy who, despite a deep affection for one another, are forced by circumstance and prejudice to live their lives apart. Heathcliff and Cathy first meet as children when her father brings the abandoned boy to live with them. When the old man dies several years later, Cathy’s brother, now the master of the estate, turns Heathcliff out, forcing him to live with the servants and working as a stable boy. The barrier of class comes between them and she eventually marries a rich neighbor, Mr. Edgar Linton, at which point, Heathcliff disappears. He returns several years later, now a rich man, but little can be done.
Brings to Life the Setting & Main Characters of A Great Novel
Director William Wyler and star Laurence Olivier bring to life the atmosphere and most important characters of a classic novel in “Wuthering Heights”. While necessarily omitting much of the material for cinematic purposes, and having a slightly different emphasis, the film version will still be appreciated by those who enjoy classic stories.
The Emily Brontë novel on which the film is based is one of the greatest books of its kind. It is far deeper than any film version could be, so for this movie only a portion of the story is used, and several characters are omitted. The movie also has more of a melodramatic feel than did the novel. It does retain the flashback-style of narrative, which works just as well in the film as it did in the book.
The story opens with a weary traveler meeting up with a now-aging, hostile, and excitable Heathcliff (Olivier), after the main action of the story is in the past. Unsettled by this strange man, the traveler is told Heathcliff’s story by the housekeeper Ellen (Flora Robson). This begins with Heathcliff’s childhood, and goes through his relations with the Earnshaw family and the Linton family. The heart of the story is his troubled romance with Catherine Earnshaw (Merle Oberon), whom he has known since being taken in by her family as a child. This relationship in turn leads to conflicts with most of the other characters, and affects the lives of everyone involved in profound ways.
Wuthering Heights Olivier memorably portrays this difficult character, and helps the audience feel his longing and restlessness. Oberon is also ideal as Catherine – a mercurial character who is both a complement and a contrast to Heathcliff. The other main strength of the film is its realization of the main settings, which are almost as important to the story as the characters are: once-fine but now gloomy and declining Wuthering Heights; the pleasant but vapid Thrushcross Grange, home of the Linton family; and especially the wild, mysterious Yorkshire moors, the only place where Heathcliff and Cathy are ever really happy. These settings are all effectively created and photographed, and provide an appropriate background to the events and tensions in the characters’ lives.
The result is a movie that, while lacking the complexity of the novel, is a satisfying realization of the most important aspects of the book, and which effectively brings the audience into the lives and hearts of the characters.