Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights is a 1992 film adaptation of Wuthering Heights written by Emily Brontë. Peter Kosminsky directed the UK film. The screenplay was written by Anne Devlin. Paramount Pictures used the author’s name title because Samuel Goldwyn Studios owned the rights to the simple title. This adaptation is one of few to include the second generation including the children of Heathcliff, Hindley, and Catherine from the original text.
The film begins with Emily Brontë visting the house that inspired her story. She begins the narration with Mr. Lockwoods visit to Wuthering Heights seeking shelter from a storm. After Lockwood is reluctantly received to stay the night by Heathcliff he encounters the ghost of Catherine Earnshaw. The narrator starts with Heathcliff’s arrival at the Heights many years before.
Catherine’s father brings him the Heights. Catherine and Heathcliff become fast friends, while her brother Hindley despises the intruder. He continues to abuse Heathcliff, lowering him to a servant after the death of their father. Hindley marries and has a son, Haerton, however the lose of his wife in child birth causes him to drink heavily. Catherine and Heathcliff are caught sneaking around the Linton’s during a party. Catherine is bitten by a dog and carried inside by Edgar Linton. Heathcliff is thrown from the house while Catherine is nursed by the family. After this Catherine spends much of her time with Edgar and his sister Isabella. When Edgar asks Catherine to marry him she accepts feeling that she can not marry Heathcliff. Upon hearing this Heathcliff leaves the Heights and in his absence she marries Edgar.
When Heathcliff returns he causes a scandal by fighting Edgar, buying the Heights, and then running off with Isabella. Catherine and Isabella both bear children. Catherine, sick from all of the stress dies shortly after delivering Cathy. Isabella runs away while pregnant. Her son Linton is brought back to the Heights after her death.
Years later Cathy meets Linton and Heathcliff. While her father forbids her to see them again she returns and is forced to marry Linton. Shortly after her father’s death Linton dies as well, leaving Cathy with Heathcliff and Haerton. Haerton and Cathy begin to fall in love. Heathcliff tired of his vengeance leaves them be. Here we catch up to the present. Heathcliff, seeing Catherine finally, dies. The narrator closes the story.
The love of two hard stubborn souls creates a whirlwind of pain that spreads not only to those around them, but on to their children as well. In this adaptation the love of Heathcliff and Catherine takes a partners in crime tone from the beginning. They are happy inseparable friends. When Catherine begins to spend time with Edgar Heathcliff risks some vulnerability trying to bring her back in. When this fails, followed closely by a proposal from Edgar, Heathcliff is further pained by Catherine’s admittance that it would degrade her to marry him. Catherine continues to express her desire to use Edgar to bring Heathcliff’s status up, but Heathcliff has already fled. Catherine hides her pain in the easy love of Edgar, but she will not give up Heathcliff. Their love stretches to the extent that Heathcliff forgives her for breaking his heart, but in perfect torture he refuses to forgive her for breaking her own.
Heathcliff is solely focused on revenge throughout the film. He becomes quite the puppet master upon returning to the Heights. He quickly strips Hindley of his home taking control of his son Haerton. He intends to torment Edgar too, but he will not strike him for Catherine’s sake. However his focus on not just revenge, but control leads him to engage Isabella’s attention and marry her. His revenge continues into the next generation as he forces Edgar and Catherine’s daughter Cathy to marry his son. In this way Heathcliff gains control of the Heights and the Grange. His revenge is his singular motivation after Catherine is gone. Only when he grows tired of this is he finally reunited with her in death.
Nature and Society
The moors play a central role in this adaptation as a haven for Catherine and Heathcliff. It is the place they are the most real with each other. They seem to be connected in a way that can only be felt in the freeing setting of nature. In a particular scene Heathcliff even tells her fortune based on the weather. As he describes a life of storms a sudden storm cloud rolls in. This is contrasted starkly by their movements among society. Catherine begins to want more of Heathcliff once she has Edgar to compare him to. Society is also a marker of Heathcliff’s status. Without parentage of money he is regarded as beneath others. especially the Linton’s. When Heathcliff returns he causes quite a stir returning with status and money. This conflict is reflected in the contrast between nature and society.
This film is widely known as one of the few adaptations to include the second generation. Including this part of the plot amplifies the extent to which Heathcliff is intent on revenge against not only Hindley but Edgar as well. Through the second generation we see another layer of Heathcliff’s malice as he abuses Cathy for her cheeky mouth, a trait she obviously inherited from her mother.
This second generation also draws on class among its own members. Linton tries to draw Cathy’s loyalty by pitting her against her other cousin Haerton. He mocks Haerton for being illiterate and a servant. Cathy isn’t quick to take his side, but she doesn’t exactly stand up for Haerton either. It isn’t until after Linton has died that she pays Haerton any real attention. While Haerton should be educated and respectable his upbringing was not nurtured by anyone. They are however able to find love, overcoming this pitfalls, unlike their family.
This film also contains a more central Nelly character, Ellen, than usual. While she is not the narrator we do see her move more throughout the film and interact with Catherine and Heathcliff. She is more present not only because of her interactions with Heathcliff when he sees the dying Catherine, but also because she is Cathy’s watcher and returns to the Heights after her marriage to Linton.
This adaptation is received with general approval. Some critics are very unforgiving in respect to the acting of the lead roles, and their accents. Most find the film to be a close translation of the text, highlighting the bleak and brooding moors of the story. The piece is also praised for including the entire plot in the film. It currently holds 6.9 stars on IMDb and a 25% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes.