The Film Society of Lincoln Center announces Heathcliff, It’s Me: Adapting Wuthering Heights, a series examining five of the greatest attempts to put Emily Brontë’s classic novel on the screen, February 24-27.
In the 170 years since its publication, Emily Brontë’s only novel, Wuthering Heights, has been one of the most frequently adapted works of literature, fascinating, inspiring, and provoking some of cinema’s greatest directors to try to render its dark, romantic, politically charged majesty. Its timeless story—the impossible love of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, and the far-reaching scars it leaves on their families—has been transposed to various historical periods and countries and incarnated through a diverse assortment of visual aesthetics and performance styles; in some cases, the races and genders of its characters have been changed to striking effect.
Is there a definitive adaptation? William Wyler’s classical Hollywood rendition? Luis Buñuel’s surrealist reimagining? Jacques Rivette’s materialist ghost story? Yoshishige Yoshida’s stark expressionist take? Andrea Arnold’s kitchen-sink realist interpretation? Revisit these films and decide for yourself.
Organized by Dan Sullivan.
Tickets will go on sale Thursday, February 9 and are $14; $11 for students and seniors (62+); and $9 for members. See more and save with the 3+ film discount package. Learn more at filmlinc.org.
Films & Descriptions
William Wyler, USA, 1939, 35mm, 103m
Considered by many the definitive screen adaptation of Emily Brontë’s novel, Samuel Goldwyn’s 1939 prestige production stands out in a year renowned for prestige productions, marrying the doomy Sturm und Drang of the source material with a Dream Factory sheen. Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon are ideally cast as the dashing, tormented Heathcliff and the beautiful, fickle Cathy, lovers whose obsessive passion leads to tragedy on the Yorkshire moors. The poetic art direction; Gregg Toland’s evocative, Oscar-winning cinematography; and William Wyler’s sensitive direction come together in what remains a paragon of classic Hollywood craftsmanship.
Sunday, February 26, 6:00pm
Monday, February 27, 6:30pm
Wuthering Heights / Abismos de pasión
Luis Buñuel, Mexico, 1953, 35mm, 91m
Spanish with English subtitles
Luis Buñuel’s typically gonzo take on Wuthering Heights relocates the story to 19th-century Mexico, where the outsized emotions and inflamed passions of lovers Alejandro (Jorge Mistral) and Catalina (Irasema Dilián) engulf everyone around them in a whirlpool of psychosexual chaos. Throughout, the director emphasizes the novel’s most perverse aspects—the sadism at the heart of the romance, the undercurrents of necrophilia—while displaying striking compassion for the story’s most downtrodden characters. The finale—a delirious Liebestod in a moonlit cemetery set to the throbbing strains of Wagner—is a surrealist triumph.
Friday, February 24, 9:30pm
Sunday, February 26, 8:15pm
Wuthering Heights / Hurlevent
Jacques Rivette, France, 1985, 35mm, 130m
French with English subtitles
Jacques Rivette’s radical reinterpretation transforms this earthy tale of white-hot love and fury in the English countryside into a coolly stylized, almost ritualistic chamber drama. Relocating the story to a chateau in 1931 France, it downplays the central romance—here between the rather-more-detached-than-usual Roc (Lucas Belvaux) and Catherine (Fabienne Babe)—foregoing blazing passion in favor of a mannered, Gallic moodiness. The look is a bit like a sun-dappled Cezanne watercolor, while the soundtrack intermittently blasts Bulgarian folk music. What results is a fascinating, boldly iconoclastic experiment in literary deconstruction.
Friday, February 24, 7:00pm
Wuthering Heights / Arashi ga oka
Yoshishige Yoshida, Japan, 1988, 35mm, 144m
Japanese with English subtitles
Emily Brontë’s Gothic romance is transposed to feudal Japan for a powerfully stark, elemental take on the story. The lush English moors are replaced by a harsh mountain setting almost lunar in its desolation. There, the wild-eyed orphan Onimaru (Yusaku Matsuda, an imposingly physical “Heathcliff”) exacts cruel revenge on the Yamabe clan after family tradition forces him to separate from his lover, Kinu (Yuko Tanaka, an ethereal “Cathy”). Director Yoshishige Yoshida conjures a savage world of expressionistic landscapes, spurting blood, and demonic spirits for a retelling that approaches primeval horror.
Saturday, February 25, 6:00pm
Andrea Arnold, UK, 2011, 129m
The classic novel gets a strong shot of kitchen sink-style realism in Andrea Arnold’s refreshingly down and dirty adaptation. At once gritty and richly sensorial, her Wuthering Heights is vividly attuned to the natural world, with intimate, handheld camerawork that evokes the sights, sounds, and textures of the Yorkshire moors: the feeling of horse hair, of a feather against a face, of grime and mud and muck. The immortal tale of untamed love—between free-spirited Cathy (Kaya Scodelario) and foundling Heathcliff (James Howson)—is stripped of all sentimentality. What’s left is its wild, almost pagan heart.
Saturday, February 25, 9:00pm
Monday, February 27, 8:45pm