Wuthering Heights on film and television

Wuthering Heights has proved popular with makers of both feature films and television adaptations. It offers some strong characters, changes of scene, hints of the supernatural, opportunities for dramatising suffering and pathos and has at its centre an intense, brooding love story.

There is an excellent review of the main film and TV versions at http://www.wuthering-heights.co.uk/watch.php which gives entertaining opinions and ratings.

As well as these, there have been opera, ballet and musical versions, as well, of course, as Kate Bush’s song. Extracts from some of these can be found on the internet. 

Working with adaptations

The obvious question to ask about any adaptation is: How faithful is this version to the original? Although it is interesting and sometimes amusing to identify what is omitted or changed, there are other, more challenging, questions to be asked. Some, for instance, concern the history and structure of the film and television industries:

  • Why was this version of the novel made at this time? In what ways might it be speaking to contemporary concerns?
  • Who were its likely viewers?
  • What were the motives of the studio or television company and the director?
  • What significance is there in the casting of the various roles?

Perhaps the most important questions relate to the way in which the story is interpreted, and here the answers to that original question about fidelity to the original can be reformulated as new questions:

  • Why might the director have omitted some parts of the plot (including some characters)?
  • Are there any ‘new’ characters or incidents? Why are they in this version?
  • How is the story interpreted? Where does the emphasis lie?
  • How are the characters presented? Are they shown as more, or less, sympathetic than in the novel? Why?
  • What might the director’s interpretation tell us about contemporary attitudes towards the issues raised by the novel?
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