WUTHERING HEIGHTS 1978: A WINNING CHALLENGE BY THE BBC
Maddalena De Leo from Ascea Marina, Italy, writes:
I’ve just finished watching the 1978 BBC dramatization of Wuthering Heights on two DVDs which I bought last summer in the Parsonage shop and now I really consider it to be the best among the various screen adaptations of Emily Brontë’s novel ever realized.
Of course I knew that BBC dramatizations are always of the finest level (Pride &Prejudice, North and South etc.) but I was amazed in finding this almost unheard of adaptation so adherent to my beloved novel and above all, so careful and attentive to those particulars often ignored by other directors, with only a few differences from the original text. No wonder that the BBC never attempted to adapt Wuthering Heights again.
Thanks to its running time of 255 minutes and its five episodes, the mini-series Wuthering Heights (directed by Peter Hammond and starring Ken Hutchinson and Kay Adshead, originally transmitted in the UK from September to October 1978) boasts many strong points, from the particularly vivid atmosphere of the moors conveyed from the beginning to the very last scene and the authentic use of Emily’s own language and phrases. Cathy and Heathcliff’s affection for each other is rendered through the intensity of their looks and not by words while the recurrent close-ups underline the force of passion in a most effective way.
Also the minor characters are well-drawn, each in his or her own peculiarity, although we find a ‘milder’ Joseph and a pleasantly strong Isabella with a will of her own, which departs from any other known adaptation of the novel. For once we have no narrator of the story and Nelly Dean appears only in her role of a servant, not always or entirely convinced that her master's actions are right. Notably the burning fire in the enormous fireplace at the Heights is put into the limelight just when the main characters’ souls are torn by agony and their inner cold.
On the other hand, there are obviously a few weak points, mainly the missing snow substituted by a frequently driving rain on the moors always announcing fatal events or, in episode two, a too long childhood against a too short teen period for Cathy and Heathcliff. This last character appears as an old man even when he is still young, almost as a hunchback with a displeasing voice, but Ken Hutchinson’s interpretation of him in the last stages of the character’s life is superlative.
The image of dying Heathcliff is not easily to forget. A regrettably missing moment in so attentive an adaptation is the beautiful passage in the book in which while lying in the moor the second Cathy and feeble young Linton speak of what they like more in life.
What else is to be said? All Brontë lovers can only enthusiastically welcome this blessed reproposed offer by the BBC after so many years of oblivion.