Sunday, 20 December 2009

WUTHERING HEIGHTS (MEXICO/1954/LUIS BUÑUEL)

Conceived in 1931 but filmed twenty-three years later, Luis Buñuel’s adaptation of the classic Emily Brontë novel starts with a disclaimer delineating his respect for the source material, as well as a warning that the characters’ own instincts and passions are what bring them such misfortune. Set against the tropical turbulence of a Mexican village, the story begins as the aloof outcast Heathcliff, here named Alejandro, returns to the household which had taken him in years ago. His visit is met with resent by most of his foster family, save for the adoring Catalina (the equivalent to Catherine), whose heart had been secretly holding out for his return for so long. Alejandro’s return has grave implications for both Catalina and his wife Isabel, who seems oblivious to the extent of Catalina’s obsessions.

Buñuel matches the breathy fervour of the book, but for the most part neglects its supernatural undertones. Instead, the film is painted as more of a morality tale – Alejandro is constantly referred to as displaying devilish traits, and is seen as a burden on the family. Though of course Buñuel allowed himself moments of sanity in his other works, it is a surprise to see such rigid adherence to the source material, and in a way that is what steals this film of its potential. Perhaps this was the influence of producer Óscar Dancigers, whose casting choices disappointed Buñuel greatly with their histrionics. Essentially, it’s a period-piece telenovela, presented under the pretence of universalising a well-known love story.




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