The Wuthering Heights

The Wuthering Heights


Reviewed by: Caro Ness

The single most striking memory of this film is its brilliant transposition of the characters and plot from the wilds of Yorkshire to the wild, sun-drenched landscapes and isolated farms of the Cévennes in France - beautifully filmed by Renato Berta. His camera seems to capture each nuance of the countryside, each change in the weather and the landscape lends itself to the brutality of the theme; unrequited and unfulfilled love and its consequences.

What I also think is very successful is that Jacques Rivette and his co-writers did away with all but the first chapter of a 34-chapter novel, dismissing all the different narrators of Bronte’s novel and simplifying and streamlining the action at a stroke.

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Rivette also introduced three dream sequences, the most interesting of which is the one at the centre of the movie, the three-year separation of Catherine (Fabienne Babe) and Roch (Lucas Belvaux) which seems to blur the boundaries between the conscious and unconscious and offers a window into Catherine’s psyche.

The two leads, Fabienne Babe and Lucas Belvaux are both young and untried and this adds a sense of realism to their impossible extended childhood attachment but it is Sandra Montaigu’s performance as Hélène that is most compelling. Rivette made her younger and sexier, animated and empathetic all of which gives a force and reality and force to Catherine’s illness, whilst subtly counter-pointing and balancing the /Isabelle (Alice xe Poncheville)/Roc triangle with Hélène‘s own attraction to Guillaume, Catherine’s elder brother.

I did find the film self-indulgent at times and whilst the music provided by the Bulgarian Woman’s Choir adds to the bleakness and wildness of the piece, it is on occasion too overly obtrusive and therefore distracting. I also felt that not enough was done to explain Roc’s boorishness when he grew up in the same household as Cathy and her brother.

This is certainly the most interesting adaptation of Bronte’s novel I have seen.

Reviewed on: 25 Feb 2008
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The Wuthering Heights packshot
Bronte's classic is transported to 1930s France.
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Director: Jacques Rivette

Writer: Pascal Bonitzer, Suzanne Schiffman, Jacques Rivette, based on Chapter One of Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

Starring: Fabienne Babe, Lucas Belvaux, Sandra Montaigu, Alice de Poncheville, Olivier Cruvellie, Philippe Morier-Geaud, Olivier Torres

Year: 1985

Runtime: 130 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: France


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