Sunday, January 18, 2009

Review: Masterpiece Theatre "Wuthering Heights" Part One

Watch Wuthering Heights online at

To my great joy, I discovered that PBS is airing Wuthering Heights on Masterpiece Theatre this weekend and next. The timing could not be better, because I have recently re-read that very novel.

The first 15 minutes of the movie left me confused - I thought I had stumbled onto the second part instead of the advertised first part! As it turns out, I was indeed watching the first part of the movie. The filmmakers deviated a great deal in the narrative, beginning the story at Linton Heathcliff's arrival. Young Cathy discovers Wuthering Heights and Uncle Heathcliff, and also discovers that her mother used to live there. Nelly tells her the story, and this is where the real story begins. No, we do not get to see Mr. Lockwood. Perhaps this shortens the story, but I prefer the story told by the novel.

This version of the tale was filmed in Yorkshire, making everything truly authentic. The moors look just as I've imagined them. Wuthering Heights itself looks fine, almost a house that looks like Heathcliff. Of course, it's not the version I have in my mind, but what version could be?

The actors are, for the most part, wonderful. They've picked a very good actress for Cathy Earnshaw named Charlotte Riley. She's appropriately gorgeous and has what sounds like an accurate accent. I think she could be a bit more tempestuous as she's written in the novel, but Ms. Riley will charm you just as Cathy charms Heathcliff. Nelly is portrayed well, too. This verion's Edgar Linton (Andrew Lincoln) is gentlemanly, although perhaps not as weak as portrayed in the novel.

And what of Heathcliff? Tom Hardy is a very good choice. He has the dark hair and handsome good looks, and portrays Heathcliff as rugged, spiteful, manipulative and cruel, just as he should be. If your Heathcliff does not work, your Wuthering Heights does not work, and this Heathcliff works very well.

One more thing to mention - the characters in the film are not as isolated as those in the novel. We see them at church, we see them at market, and we see them in the company of others. In the novel, the Lintons and Earnshaws have very little interaction with the outside world, at least in the scenes that are written. In the novel, most all outside interactions take place "off-page" and out of sight.

I'm anxious to see the second part, and to find out how the filmmakers wrap up the narrative.


kenhgee said...

Charlotte Riley's accent was not authentic, not even close. I spent Part One hearing someone from Lancashire or Coronation Street.
I was born (1939) in Keighley, four miles from Haworth Parsonage; and grew up (to age 11) in Oxenhope, only 1.5 miles from Haworth. My paternal grandmother had deep Haworth roots, and THERE was a woman with a West Yorkshire accent. Roley's accent and intonation were vaguely Northern, yes, but far, far from Catherine Earnshaw, and light years from being distinctly West Yorkshire. (My grandmother told me that when she was a small girl she knew old people who had known and seen the Brontes when they in turn were small. She was born in 1884.)
I looked up Riley after the show, and found she
grew up in a village in the northeast, then stayed there to go to university (Durham.) This was followed by acting school in London.
I found Riley's performance (so far) tame. I've long regarded Catherine Earnshaw as somewhat unhinged and willfully self-destructive. If there had been such a place as Gimmerton, the folks there would have regarded last night's Catherine as a rank outsider--an "offcomden."
I'm looking forwarded to Part Two. I watched Part One twice last night, actually, once from Detroit then very soon after that from Spokane.

Russ/rfduck said...

Yeah, I wasn't sure if the accent was authentic or not, but I like the fact that they at least gave her one.

I, too, thought she was a bit more tame than the book Cathy. Book Cathy is dramatic, spoiled and violent and has everyone in fear of her wrath.