For my blog today I watched the film version of Wuthering Heights, the made for television (Masterpiece Classic) version. The first thing I noticed was that a key character, Mr. Lockwood was not in this story and instead we start off towards the end of the novel with Catherine, Linton, Hareton and Heathcliff. This threw me off for a moment as I was so used to the story being told from Mr. Lockwood’s perspective, until we meet Nelly Dean and hear her tales of Heathcliff and Cathy. In the very beginning we see a flustered Heathcliff remembering Cathy, and we hear the famous, “let me in” from his memory rather than the phantom that appears to Mr. Lockwood. Also, for a short time, young Catherine takes the place of Mr. Lockwood exploring the room with Catherine’s things, though we do not see the books she used as a diary. Nelly was the main narrator of the tales between Cathy and Heathcliff and in the movie she is not. I can’t say Nelly was a favorite character of mine, but she was certainly important. And Mr. Lockwood, to me, was put into the book to act as we would. He is a representation of the audience and how we would act. In this movie we see the events of what transpired between Cathy and Heathcliff through what appears to be flashbacks.
So I can’t say for certain why the director took this approach and changed the lay of the story, but I suppose it makes for more interest. To be honest, the very beginning of Wuthering Heights isn’t all that interesting. It sets the scene for the book, and helps the audience to understand what is happening. It’s not that we don’t care about Mr. Lockwood, it’s just that the mystery of the Heights, and Heathcliff are so much more fascinating and jumping into the story straight away really grabs that audience’s attention. We are drawn by Heathcliff’s character, we ask why is he so angry?
In the beginning of the movie, Linton comes to Wuthering Heights. Later, young Cathy also comes to the Heights. We are introduced in the beginning of the book to Hareton, the servants, young Cathy and Heathcliff. Young Cathy is very snippy and angry, much like Heathcliff. The characters in the book are darker and full of anger. In the movie they do not have the raw emotion that they seem to display in the book.
To me, there seem to be character inconsistencies. In the movie Cathy exists as a phantom of Heathcliff’s memory. In the book she is created through the memories of Nelly. She does not seem as stubborn and wild as she is in the book either. Heathcliff does not appear to be the darker skinned, gypsy character that I imagined in the book. Characters such as Joseph and Nelly don’t play as large a role in the movie as they did in the book.
Many of the quotes remain the same, keeping some of the integrity of the book. Although one part that stood out for me was after Edgar left Cathy, she spoke to Heathcliff and said that he had asked her to marry him. She also says that she has not yet given him an answer. In the book, she says, “To-day Edgar Linton has asked me to marry him, and I’ve given him an answer.” (p.72) She discusses this with Nelly and Heathcliff finds out by eavesdropping. It seems a major plot point, and it does not seem quite as well executed in the movie. It just isn’t as dramatic.
One other major change, was that Heathcliff shows up in the book and Nelly sees him near Thrushcross Grange. In the movie, Cathy received a letter on her wedding day. Also, in the book Isabella is quite infatuated with Heathcliff and he wants nothing to do with her. It is Cathy’s words that set the idea in his mind to marry her. In the movie, she seems almost wary of Heathcliff and the tension doesn’t seem like it works.
Over all, the biggest change in the movie was the timeline. Things are in a different order in the book than the movie but things such as that are often changed to make room for all the important scenes in a movie without a long, background.