Thursday, March 15, 2007

Gothic Sibs

Ya gotta hand it to those Bronte sisters. Nobody does Gothic romance quite like them. I recently re-read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Tonight I watched the 1992 movie version of Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Yeah, I know all about the argument that it was actually written by the brother Bronte, Branswell. But I'm still rooting for Emily.

What is it about the obsessive passion of Heathcliffe and Catherine that generations have found so captivating?

I can scarcely imagine what it would have been like to have been born into a time and place where women had no right over their own property, their own bodies, their own lives. Besides that, watching the scene of boiling clothes makes me darn grateful for some of the lovely modern conveniences I have at my fingertips.

Still, every now and then it feels good to get lost in fantasy of living in some stone castle on the moores (although it does look rather drafty and no doubt had marginal plumbing).

Anyway, it was nice to see a movie with no explosions or car chases or knife fights or profanity. Just good old lust, jealousy, bitterness and spite. Heathcliffe is such an absolute cad - contorted by his passion, driven to dreadful cruelty - and yet I can't bring myself to despise him. What can be said of Cathy? While my egalitarian sensibilities balk when she marries for money, position, ease - willfully turning her back on the one she had the deep heart passion for...can I truly fault her considering the norms of the day? It's a strange, convoluted tale within a tale that ends badly for most the major players. But it was a pleasant diversion for the evening.


Marie said... the Brontes. I'm a Charlotte fan, but I like Wuthering Heights, too, though I find it exhausting to read. The characters aren't really characters, in my opinion. They are forces of nature and emotion in human form and when I think of it that way, I don't get so upset at how they treat each other. I didn't see the Ralph Fiennes version because while he's a great actor I couldn't fathom a fair, slight, blue-eyed Heathcliff. Did he pull it off okay? Was he sufficiently stormy? Timothy Dalton had a good run going in his early acting days, playing all the Bronte leading men, before he became the worst James Bond and ruined his career. His Heathcliff is intense!

As for the ol' Branwell claim, it's balderdash -- no man (especially of that era) could write such women characters. There's a funny scene in one of my favorite movies, Cold Comfort Farm, in which Stephen Fry, as a pretentious, obnoxious, chauvanistic, and oversexed writer, keeps forcing his attentions on the heroine of the movie. He tells her proudly that he's working on a groundbreaking study in which he reveals that Branwell Bronte wrote Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, AND the Tenant of Wildfell Hall. She snarks back: "So it's a work of fiction, is it?"

There's also a funny Monty Python bit with Wuthering Heights being dramatized in semaphore. Heathcliffe and Kathy stand on opposite hills on the windy moor and signal their passion with large flags. Hee hee.

I guess before the Brits became obsessed with Italy, they only let their emotions run free on the wild and windy moors. You've got your Brontes and your Thomas Hardy and of course the secret garden where cranky old hermits learn to cry again.

Sorry for the rambling comment. My mind is wandering, drunken, through the heath.

Jaquandor said...

I bought copies of both of these at my recent Nine Dollar Literary Bonanza -- i.e, the library book sale. I'm planning to read them this fall. I read Jane Eyre in high school and loved it, but I now remember fairly little about it.

Belladonna said...

Ok Marie, if you are a fan of Bronte's work at all you absolutely MUST go get THIS version of the movie. Seriously.

Fiennes is positively OMINOUS as Heathcliff - dark and brooding, reeking testosterone; ya watch this film and there are particular scenes where the hair raises up on the back of your neck and OH MY GOSH ...swoon time.

The "forces of nature" bit DEFINITELY comes through.

Mimi said...

I've only read "Wuthering Heights" once, but I remember not liking it as much as the movie, and you know how rare that is.

Morning Glory said...

I love the Brontes, especially Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. You might enjoy seeing this:

I have a blog devoted to trips I've taken and this trip was to their village in England.

I think I need to find the version of this movie you mentioned. I've seen so many of them, but not this one.

Morning Glory said...

Sorry, the comment section wouldn't take the whole site address. Try this:

and scroll down two or three posts.

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