“Well, if I cannot keep Heathcliff for my friend–if Edgar will be mean and jealous, I’ll try to break their hearts by breaking my own. That will be a prompt way of finishing all, when I am pushed to extremity!” (Cathy in Wuthering Heights)
I still haven’t read the book. The week that I went to look for it in Bookmans, it was gone. I didn’t know about the Twilight connection. I have now decided I might not need to read it; there are one million film adaptations and a new one is coming out soon.
The last time I got this into a hilariously tragic love story was with Terrance Malick’s The New World. I felt justified watching it repeatedly because it was a Terrance Malick movie and it was filmed where I grew up on the Virginia coast. I suspect that I actually watched it because it featured a brooding, silent, and violent love interest and a girl that, at one point, flings herself face down in the mud with grief over losing him. Fast forward to Wuthering Heights and we have… a brooding, silent, and violent love interest and a girl who runs out into the moors during a storm — delirious and pregnant in her nightgown — screaming with grief, “Heathcliff!” It’s kind of the same thing.
My first brush with Wuthering Heights came this summer during a “we’re going to sit on my bed and watch romance movies” marathon at my mom’s house. Seriously. In a twenty-four hour span, she tried to get me to watch The Notebook, Love in the Time of Cholera and Wuthering Heights. By the time we got to the third one, I needed to get out of there. (I ended up standing under a giant oak tree in their backyard thinking about my first love.) She kept trying to entice me in to watch it, “He’s digging up her body!” But, I couldn’t take it. I caught the ending. And the one that she was watching had a really good ending so I cried against my will and without seeing any of the setup.
Sometime this fall, I decided to watch the Masterpiece version on Netflix. Then I watched it again. Then I watched the one with Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche. Then I watched the one with Laurence Olivier. Then I watched the Masterpiece version again.
If you don’t know the story, here’s a rundown. A man takes a “gypsy” kid into his house and raises him with his own children. They live on the windswept moors of Yorkshire (see also my love of The Secret Garden and Jonathan Strange and Dr. Norrell). The daughter and the gypsy kid Heathcliff run around outside together until they grow hormones and then they run around outside together with benefits. Tragedies occur, namely a sprained ankle and an overheard conversation. Heathcliff leaves. Cathy marries the neighbor. Heathcliff returns the day of her wedding. He drives her crazy. He marries her husband’s sister who he doesn’t love. He drives her crazy too. Cathy gets pregnant by her husband and is forced to stay indoors. She runs around outside looking for Heathcliff in a storm. This kills her. While she is dying, she tells him that he has killed her. After she dies, he curses her soul to stay earthbound forever to keep him company. He exacts revenge on the subsequent generation of Heights Wutherers, hangs out with her corpse for awhile, and then blows his brains out. Everyone in the story gets sick. There appear to be only two houses in the whole village. There is nothing to do but ride horses, have fits and exact revenge. It’s awesome.
I watched the Masterpiece version again last night so that I could write this post. I can’t help it; I love it. This guy plays Heathcliff, but with a Trent Reznor hair wig.
They all have great jackets in this one. I had concocted a jacket to level-of-tragedy ratio that seemed to be working. Is the character wearing a tiny, adorable structured riding jacket with a popped collar? She is an unloved moron who throws herself at Heathcliff and he says “Don’t look at me, I said don’t look at me!” while they are having sex. Heathcliff has a furious amount of jackets. Sometimes even three at the same time. Cathy has jackets a plenty. A cool jacket means sorrow. At the end, Cathy’s daughter puts on a shawl. A shawl is the antidote and she is able to put it on and … walk away from Wuthering Heights.
I’m also fond of the nanny, Nelly, in this version. She looks like John Lithgow.
Both the Heathcliff and the Cathy are super attractive and the actors are together in real life. The Heathcliff in this story is really violent and he calls Cathy’s husband a pussy at least five or seven different times and tries to kill him with a fireplace poker thing. He also gets flogged a lot by the brother. The doctor’s pronouncements are also pretty grand. A sprained ankle? “You have to stay inside for five weeks.” Passing out outside during a storm? “She’s not going to make it, there is no hope.” I love it.
That being said, I think I have to give it a rest. Luckily, there are at least fifteen different versions that I have yet to see. Plus, a new is in the works with the first black Heathcliff!
I found out last night that there is a Wuthering Heights role playing game. I can’t actually find the PDF of the rules, but it sounds pretty good. Everything is driven by “rage” or “despair” or “oldness”. I wish I could play it, but no one would actually do this with me and I don’t know how to do role playing games and I don’t have any nerd dice. Drat.
“And I pray one prayer–I repeat it till my tongue stiffens–Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you–haunt me, then! The murdered DO haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts HAVE wandered on earth. Be with me always–take any form–drive me mad! only DO not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I CANNOT live without my life! I CANNOT live without my soul!” (Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights)