Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights (1992)

I have been meaning to watch this one for some time, primarily because a) I couldn't recall if I have ever actually seen it before - and I'm still not sure, I may have done back in the 90s when I was a teenager, and b) because I'd heard so many poor reviews about it - including one from a friend of mine who is an absolute nut for Bronte's novel. Indeed, it was such reviews that ironically also put me off from watching it as well as compelling me to, if that makes sense!

The reviews were right I'm afraid. This is a disappointingly tepid adaptation of the literary classic, and I would certainly  rank it as one of the most unengaging versions of the tale I've seen. 

It's a real shame because on paper it should have a lot going for it; the cast is certainly of a high standard, Fiennes and Binoche were quite a hot ticket and a dream pairing for the time, but on the whole they are totally miscast. 

They're a good cast yes, but not for this film. 

Not for these characters. 

Binoche never seems to get a handle on either of her dual roles of Catherine Earnshaw and Cathy Linton, presenting us with something really insipid and bland - could this really be the same Binoche of The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Damage and Three Colours Blue? Where is her trademark electricity and sensuality?? 

Equally Fiennes, a good actor of that there is no doubt, fails to convince as the bitter and manipulative insubordinate from Gypsy stock. Indeed the make up attempts to persuade us; all brown skin colouring and jet black hair occasionally veer towards the distractingly laughable. I half expected to hear him sing 'Oh Goodness Gracious Me' at some points!

I can't help think that the genuinely dark and brooding Jason Riddington (who would go on to set pulses racing as Dr Rob Khalefa in Casualty a year later) seen here in the smaller role of Hareton destined to tread a similar path, would have actually made a better Heathcliff from the off instead. 

Visually, the film goes from looking suitably gothic, rugged and impressive one minute to looking like some dreary low rent Sunday period drama off the tele the next. Heavily condensed and rather prettily soulless like a poodle rock video from the same period, this is  showing its 1990s age somewhat now. Thankfully the director Peter Kosminsky offered up the goods much later in his career notably with TV dramas like Bosnian war drama Warriors and most recently, The Promise starring Claire Foy.

I would definitely recommend other adaptations over this one - primarily Andrea Arnold's bold but grittily atmospherically faithful interpretation from 2011, previously reviewed on this very blog here

Oh and lastly, just what was it with these 90s adaptations seemingly so desperate to tell you who the writer of the material was right there in the title? Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights...a strangely reverential fad!

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