My first impression upon reading Wuthering Heights was following: now I know what the absolute evil looks like. Exacting your revenge over the decades with unimaginable cruelty on innocent people takes inhuman qualities. This level of dedication alone is not something most people possess.
None of the people in the book are likable, to be sure, and some are downright mean, but their character is an extension of their environment. They are all human, they all can be understood. Even Hindley, the big bully, simply tries to protect his position in the family. Heathcliff stands out among them like an enormous black rock protruding through a muddy countryside.
In the cinema today I saw some very different Wuthering Heights. The second volume was cut off completely and the story ends with Catherine dying and Heathcliff banging his head onto the wall. One of the most challenging English novels was reduced to a mere love story.
I’m not complaining just from the purist positions: the book by Emily Bronte was sorta about something. She shows us one of the worst places on Earth, but she also gives hope. In this sense, it’s not a book about Heathcliff, Catherine or their unfortunate romance. I remember it, together with Lord of the Flies and Heart of Darkness, as a book about the human nature.
What was the idea behind the film? I don’t know. Were we supposed to weep at lovers’ misfortunes? This material doesn’t work like that: I don’t identify with Heathcliff any more than I do with Charles Manson. Were there supposed to be passion or suspense? None can be found: Heathcliff retains his vacant, apathetic expression even while strangling Isabella’s pet dog.
The director, Andrea Arnold, has made an Oscar-winning short Wasp and a shattering Fish Tank. Both were about similar places and people, but dealt with their characters in a more human way. I was also drawn in by the beautiful cinematography and some non-professional performances. It’s obvious, a lot of love was invested into this project, which makes the result all the more disappointing.