“Wuthering Heights”, 1939 Movie Re-viewed

A classic film which seems more over the top than ever. Only not-so-bright romantics could love this one today.

A reasonable pared-down script from the original novel eliminates unnecessary layers of generations. Everybody looks right for their roles, but the acting is way over-the-top like the non-stop music that tells the viewer how to feel at a given moment. Very insulting.

Best perhaps best in the adaptation, like the original, are the wrong choices by Cathy and Heathcliff and the unnecessary tragic results which follow. That is realistic; people make those kinds of mistakes in love. Edgar illustrates the limitations of good, kind people. Geraldine Fitzgerald gives a convincing performance as the neglected, abused sister of Edgar. Flora Robinson plays the stereotypical witness who understands, but is unable to influence any of the main characters’ choices. Also good is the strong sense of atmosphere created from the black and white award-winning cinematography by Gregg Toland.

There are diehard romantics out there today, I suppose, who would buy the love beyond death theme, the return of the dead, and dead lovers reuniting aspects which once made this plot more appealing and likable. Shades of Romeo and Juliet with twists. Do crass and disillusioned modern adults still believe in such things? I guess that depends on their reasons and experience.

But apart from these underlying messages, Wuthering Heights, as novel or film, was and still is pure melodrama. And to most modern viewers, it totters at the edge of implausible extremes, unintended humor, and insulting assumptions, playing as an absurd, unrealistic cinematic joke.

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