Wednesday, May 26, 2010

- 'Wuthering Heights' Open Thread

  What did you think?


  1. Have you gotten into it yet? I've just watched "Episode 1, Part 1" -- I don't actually know how many episodes or parts there are, but we've covered a good bit of ground so far. LOVE the cast, but that's all I'll say 'til I know how far along you are.

    I'm glad you spotted this!

  2. "What did you think?"

    That the girl is way too cute.

  3. Cathy, Cathy! Oh yes, this is a good one. Remarkable in many ways. And yes, she is a delightfully fresh and playful looking young woman. And the dark brooding, dangerous Irishman... who knew?

    Heathcliff has returned, the day of Catherine's wedding. Looks to me like trouble. I have a lot I'd love to share, but will have Brennie with me this weekend and may not be back to comment till Tuesday...or maybe a touch on Friday. Well, we'll see. But go right ahead!

  4. Jut-jawed men, full of vim, vigor, strong veins, fire and flesh and passion in the desires of the loins.

    Yep. Porn for women. Taxpayer reimbursed, at that.

    At least by the Harlequin Romance looks of the photo gallery so far.

    A little difference from the older version I saw years ago (1939 version--directed by William Wyler)

  5. Yes, well..thank you for those insights.

    It is a very dark romance, with Heathcliff being an outsider and less than in a culture he neither loves nor desires. And yet, he cannot part from the one thing in it that he is tied to, the free spirited and exuberant Cathy. Heathcliff is the darkest character (hero?..villian?) we have seen so far in our little Movie Club. He brings to mind the Phantom as Andrew Lloyd Weber drew him in The Phantom of the Opera, particularly as portrayed on the screen by Gerald Butler. Powerful, decisive, intelligent, cunning, and merciless. Can anything but destruction come from being involved with this man? The dark aspects of him seem rather compelling to women, and there is a lesson in that I am sure.

    What possessed Mr. Earnshaw to bring him home from his trip to Dublin, and what events did his charity set in motion that would eventually result in the destruction of his family?

    I loved the setting along the Yorkshire Moors, and their was a very strong Celtic feel to the music, especially when showing the landscapes or Heathcliff himself, who seemed as wild and unforgiving as the country he was taken to.

  6. Hi Wakes!

    The biggest difference you'll find between this version and the classic from 1939 is that that version only covered the first half of the novel, which really functions as the set-up for the psychological study of vengeance that is the second half. (It's a very cool book, though not what you'd call cheery.)

    Hey, Nick,

    Re: The dark aspects of him seem rather compelling to women, and there is a lesson in that I am sure.

    I'm not sure how true that is in this case. Heathcliff is terribly damaged, but more "wild child" than "bad boy". No matter how attractive the depths of his passion for Cathy may be, I can't imagine any woman thinking she might succeed in either mending or taming his heart where his Cathy could not. And his response to the heartbreak of what he sees as her betrayal is to become something far more dangerous and destructive than any "hot and brooding" hero.

    I don't remember the book well enough to know whether this scene is true to it, but it is clear here that by the time Frances dies in childbirth, Cathy is becoming alienated by Heathcliff 's dark aspects. She tries to reason with him, even correct him, but finally concludes sadly: "Sometimes I think your true passion is hate rather than love."

    But, then. No spoilers!

  7. Now then, Wakes, about those Harlequin Romances. Not all period pieces are "bodice rippers."

    Just because the "heroine" is the rich man's daughter, and the "hero" she slips off to meet is the stable boy... Oh, wait.

  8. It is of interest to me that the anti-hero(?) is an Irishman, and not just any Irishman, but one of the so-called black Irish. Dark hair, dark eyes, and darkly serious.

    If I can play at school master for a moment, the Irish were considered second class people by the English, and largely here in the new world as well. They were characterized as being given to high passions, violent outbursts, were lack luster, lazy, and given to drink too much. There is some truth to it, but as all such generalizations go, they are overly general. The black Irish were a particular group of Irish that were the survivors of Spanish Aramada that largely ship-wrecked off the Northern coast of Ireland in 1588. Instead of the fair complexion, freckles, and the red or sandy blond hair of the typical Irish, they had dark complexions, jet black hair and dark eyes. This is where the 'gypsy' references come from.

    Clearly, his birth makes him an outsider, but it also makes him interesting. Even as a youth Hindley sees him as a usurper and dangerous threat, which he does in fact become. But how much of this is truly Heathcliff's doing, and how much is it the response to Hindley's attempts to buckle and break him? I must say I very much liked Heathcliff as a young man. His care for his adopted father, his bold willingness to stand up for him while being completely unwilling to explain to his father why, his playfulness with Catherine, his natural comfort on the Moor or on horseback.. an impressive young man.

  9. It is a beautifully photographed piece, and many of the scenes are very good. One I enjoyed in particular was in which the grown Heathcliff and Catherine sneak off in the night to peer in on their neighbors, Edgar and Isabella Linton, and the sheer playful delight Catherine takes in watching Edgar attempting to practice dancing, and her joy and mirth at sharing the joke of it with Heathcliff was very endearing.

    The other scene was in striking contrast, and occurred after the wedding. Her older brother Hindley had found his way into a gambling table and the better part of a bottle, and as the miller across the table cheats at another hand, in strides a confident and unflinching Heathcliff, who calls the card player up short in his cheating, dumps the sodden Hindley on the floor, makes it clear that the card shark can lie and cheat Hindley all he likes, but he is never to lie to him. Then he leans in, and with eyes squinting, asks if the card shark had ever played another kind of gambling game. Then with eyes widening and staring straight at what was the sharp but is now the mark, he says

    "Now that's a game for real cut-throats"

    Ah oh. What in the world kind of trouble has just walked through the door?

  10. I have come to enjoy a number of stories that portray a character and his loved ones badly treated in some way, and the struggle the character has in his own heart trying to respond in a way that honors those harmed and yet is not consumed with evil. Maximus in Gladiator was a good example, and a fine hero for me five years ago when my own trials began in earnest. It was a feeling of being true to yourself and not being rolled inside by powers that were much stronger than you, even if the resistance could only be in a battle over yourself. Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo is my favorite, for he is utterly driven by a desire to bring justice to those that destroyed him and his family, but throughout there is a battle for his soul, both by the old man he was imprisoned with and by his lifelong love, Mercedes. Wuthering Heights is by far the darkest of such stories, for Heathcliff's desire to destroy those that harmed him and cause suffering to those that in his mind betrayed him, results in the destruction of everything he loves, including himself.

    I don't care for Heathcliff. His over developed sensitivity to the wrongs of the past, his single minded determination to ruin people he has only a passing acquaintance with if their destruction somehow affects those he has a mark against, his utter lack of compassion and pity, and his distorted view of love all strike me as what I would term a weak or weak minded man. He is interesting in a terrible sort of way, but he does not have the inner strength to endure hardship and still be whole. It is a hard challenge to endure personal loss and suffering, but it is the one God sometimes puts before us.

  11. Nick, this is so beautifully said, especially the personal feeling in your remarks.

    You've captured two important truths, for me, anyway. One, to keep in mind that whatever challenge we face "it is the one God sometimes puts before us."

    And two, the importance of "a feeling of being true to yourself and not being rolled inside by powers that were much stronger than you, even if the resistance could only be in a battle over yourself."

    It's that "battle over yourself" that yields the greatest victory , or the greatest defeat, isn't it.

  12. We looked at Wuthering Heights because of the discussion about the theme of forgiveness in Jane Eyre, and I have to begin with that. It is as though Charlotte and Emily Bronte decided to explore the opposite extremes of forgiveness and vengeance in their respective novels. And until watching the movies one after the other, I had never noticed how many parallels there are in the stories.

    In each story there is an orphaned child brought into a family by a protective surrogate father. While he is alive, the child is exposed only to ill-will and subtle abuse by another in the family: for Jane it is her Aunt Reed, for Heathcliff it is his foster brother Hindley. But when that father dies, and the child has lost his protection -- familial, legal, financial -- the full hatred of the other is brought to bear, and the first revenge of the story is carried out. Jane is banished to the "institute", to a life of hardship if not complete misery; Heathcliff is disavowed, and reduced to a life little better than a slave's; each spends years fully aware of the injustice of their situations.

    They are both, however, befriended by characters who show welcome, compassion and love. As a child, Jane has her dear Helen Burns, who shares with Jane her faith, and her hopefulness -- how much of Jane's future is influenced by this relationship? As a young woman she has Rochester, who befriends her, and then falls in love, believing her to have the same mind and heart as himself.

    Cathy plays both these roles for Heathcliff. She is the constant friend of his youth, but she is a willful, impulsive, and selfish child, for all that she is a delightful beauty. And their childish fun is a far cry from the sort of self-reflection, and striving to do one's best, that Helen Burns encourages in Jane Eyre.

    As a young woman in love with Heathcliff, Cathy's selfish nature is clearly expressed in her consideration of Linton's marriage proposal. As much as she knows she will never give up Heathcliff, she speculates that it is the ideal solution for them: she would be spared the demeaning hardships that would certainly accompany running away with Heathcliff, and would have at her disposal the means to free Heathcliff from Hindley's control.

    Heathcliff does not hear Cathy's profession that she could never be parted from him, and leaves, believing that she has betrayed their love. It is Heathcliff who betrays, by believing the worst of his beloved -- he is a terribly serious version of the comic "felled tree Kittredge" -- but rather than demanding an explanation, he watches from silent distance until he can return, a mysteriously self-made man, for his revenge.


  13. Jane Eyre also finds herself betrayed by her love, when she discovers the enormous fraud Rochester is perpetrating in "marrying" her. She, too, leaves, but in heartbreak and moral imperative, rather than rage. And when she returns to Thornfield, now financially independent, it is because she believes she is needed, and intends to offer whatever help she may.

    But even before their hearts are broken, we see the difference in Jane and Heathcliff's natures, when each sees the person who has done them grave harm in distress. When his tormentor Hindley's wife dies in childbirth, Heathcliff insists, in spite of Cathy's attempts to turn his heart, that he is happy, for it hurt Hindley to lose the only person who ever loved him.

    Jane is completely his opposite when she agrees to visit her dying Aunt Reed who is grieving the death of her son. She certainly owes her no kindness, yet continues to show her aunt compassion and cares for her in her illness, even after learning how she deceived the unknown uncle seeking Jane to give her a better life.

    In every choice, Jane follows her forgiving heart; she gathers to herself devoted friends, a loving husband, and family of her own, everything she had longed for; we leave her knowing the she will live happily and well-loved. Heathcliff manages every opportunity to give his vindictiveness full rein; spends years destructively manipulating the lives of the children of his enemies; and we see him die, the fire of hate finally burned out and life having lost any interest. (In the novel, Heathcliff does not shoot himself, but simply stops caring, stops eating, and dies.)

    I have to wonder how much the authors intended Christian faith -- its instruction, its lifelong pursuit -- to emerge as a factor in the very different paths that Jane Eyre and Heathcliff take. As much as she may have recognized the hypocrisy of individuals who professed beliefs, Jane adopts both the moral code and the loving heart that figure into the faith in which she is instructed all her life. And I think her ability to forgive comes, if in part from her sense that it is a duty required of the Christian, at least as much from the uplifting nature of Helen Burns' kind of hopeful, and hope-filled, faith.

    It is made clear that Heathcliff is denied the benefit of any practiced faith; the family abandons their church at the first sign of conflict, and the manservant Joseph is mocked by family and others servants for his piety. For all the heated conversations that invoke Heaven and Hell, they are either scoffed-at warnings to mend his ways, or Heathcliff's own ravings about those ways he refuses to change. Heathcliff seems to have some superstition, but he has no faith -- and therefore nothing to guide him, or support him, in crisis.

  14. Not having seen the movie (based on just the photos), I can tell you that if that cute young thing were *my* daughter and had taken up with that homely (and obviously no-account) fellow, I'd lock her up until he went away.

  15. You should consider giving it a look, Ilion. Thomas Hardy's portrayal was impressive, powerful and remakably dark. And Heathcliff was not a no-account, though some treated him that way, and it was his response to them that set in stone the grim consequence that his life became. Heathcliff takes all pleasure out of the notion of vengence. It is a sobering story.

    "And I think her ability to forgive comes, if in part from her sense that it is a duty required of the Christian, at least as much from the uplifting nature of Helen Burns' kind of hopeful, and hope-filled, faith.", my. Yes, Helen Burns was an inspiration and a guiding light for Jane all through her life, and her life pointed Jane to forgiveness and forbearance, which she did indeed take up, for Jane's own natural temperment was not the peaceable, enduring and patient one we see in her last interaction with her Aunt Reed.

    Very, very well said. Thanks so much for taking your time to go through this as you have. Excellent.

  16. Yes, well, it sort of took on a life of its own... Kind of weird.

  17. BTW, the movies kind of glosses over how truly miserable Heathcliff makes the young people.

    I think I've decided that showing us the older Heathcliff and the children at the beginning of the movie actually dilutes the impact of both Heathcliff's change over time and the extensiveness of his plans for revenge. It's true to the book, which begins with an outsider meeting the Heathcliff household and being told the story of Heathcliff and Cathy, but I don't think it works as well when it takes so much less time, and detail, to get back where you started.

    But what do I know. I still can't figure out why I got so fixated about the similarities between the two books.

  18. "I still can't figure out why I got so fixated about the similarities between the two books."

    Perhaps because it was a spot on insight that added to the enjoyment and understanding of both works.
    : )

    I believe you were right in saying they were addressing the same issue from different perspectives, and the contrast was remarkable. The Helen Burns character was not only an example of a person committed to living the christian faith, but was a guide to Jane to reflect on her own life and an encouragement to live her life in the same way, with compassion for those around her and forgiveness to those who would wrong her, and it was all a part of her faith and personal committment to live as God would have her live.

    Thanks for going through it with me, Cathy. That was very good.

  19. I'm really glad we did them -- I have a much better appreciation for both novels, thrashing things out a bit as an adult. And both movies were so well done, so well cast, so beautifully shot. And all the incredible old houses and estates -- uh-oh, there's that trip to the British Isles beckoning again...

  20. Have you an idea for the next show? I'm going to be going out of town for just over a week on Sunday, and am wondering what kind of timing we can work out.

  21. "Two weeks! That's not possible."

    : )

  22. Cathy, we will let the next one be a future project. I have had a show on my mind that I saw a while back that I think would be fun to revisit. It is about a young man who had a tragic event that he could not escape, and a young gal that he befriends, and family and conflict and confusion. I will put it up in a week or so. I think you will enjoy 'Bella'.

  23. You mean, you want to wait 'til I get back?!


    Actually, if it's the movie I'm thinking of (and have been wanting to see) I'd just as soon have it, and discussing it, to look forward to, instead of trying to rush it.