Originally a pre 20th Century novel written by Emily Bronte, ‘Wuthering Heights’ is a tragic love story with a very high content of supernatural phenomenon, evil and revenge. It was published in 1847 and recently, in the early 1990’s, Peter Kosminsky has adapted his thoughts of the novel to the big screen. For years critics have debated whether ‘Wuthering Heights’ is mainly from a romantic or gothic genre. Peter Kosminsky appears to privilege the gothic theme. In his version, the opening is very supernatural; this eerie theme continuing through the film.
The novel itself is set in 1801 although Nellie, the housekeeper, tells the story which spans 30 years. Lockwood, Heathcliff’s new tenant, arrives at Wuthering Heights. He stays the night and sees the ghost of Cathy. A few days later Nellie tells him the story of the two houses and how they contain jealousy, deceit and revenge. It is about the love of Heathcliff and Cathy, and their apparent quest for eternal love. At the beginning of the film Kosminsky, has added something that is not in the novel.
He opens his film with the image of a lonely figure exploring the moors who stumbles across a ruin. Immediately he shows the supernatural side of the film because it quickly becomes apparent that he has reincarnated Emily Bronte to introduce, and narrate, her own novel. She goes on to explain how this ruin is the birth of her imagination, leading to the creation ‘Wuthering Heights’. As she walks the moors the weather is overcast and wintry. This makes it seem cold and unwelcome and sets a stormy and turbulent theme to the film.
As Bronte walks into the ruin, the light is filtered through the holes in the roof and coming down in rays, as if it were a heavenly place. Combined with the un-welcoming weather, this creates a two sided story of good and evil. Showing his idea more clearly with a close-up of Bronte, Kosminsky makes her face half submerged in dark, and half revealed in light, exposing and compounding this duel portrayal. Kosminsky has specifically chosen certain camera angles to emphasise the importance of the ruin in Bronte’s mind. He has her walk up towards Wuthering Heights, which is towering above her.
This symbolises that the house has a big part to play in the novel. Also, by making Wuthering Heights a very stereotypical gothic house, Kosminsky visually inserts the supernatural theme into the film once again. The house itself is in a very desolate area, with huge turrets, towers and crumbling stonework strongly represents a haunted house. However once Bronte stands beside the house, Kosminsky changes the camera angle, and her and the house become the same size. Once overpowering, Wuthering Heights decreases and becomes equal in stature to Bronte.
This shows what Kosminsky might think about the equality between writer and novel, maybe, using it to show how Bronte becomes the house and the creator of all ideas. When creating the supernatural theme, Kosminsky uses several factors for emphasis and impact, one of which is the sound used. At the beginning of the film an orchestral, flute-like soundtrack is introduced slowly, until the title credits appear. The graphics are old, weathered and aged; super imposed over an isolated image of the moors, on to which a hooded figure of Bronte walks into the picture from the foreground.
The flute-like music is in time with her movement and sounds very lonesome and eerie. Kosminsky uses this to intensify the fact that Bronte is solitary and poised at the beginning of something beyond un-natural and entering the realms of the supernatural. Music is not the only sound Kosminsky uses. Sound effects are also use to show the state of the weather, and the path the novel will take, more clearly. Although the weather is overcast, he uses sound effects to signal that a storm is beginning to brew. This hints at the route the story might take and the tempestuous relationship between the characters.
After Bronte’s opening narration, Kosminsky uses the same camera angle of the ruin as he does to open the next. This next moment is Lockwood riding up the path on a white horse. The white horse was specifically chosen so that it, once again, symbolises the good in the novel. Juxtaposed against the stormy weather, Kosminsky uses this to show the two developing sides of the story; good and evil. Lockwood rides to the house and then the camera changes to a close up of his fist, knocking heavily on the door which, ironically, looks very much like that of a church. After a coarse welcoming he enters.
Walking slowly towards the camera and examining his surroundings, the camera then becomes Lockwood’s eyes and line of vision. Kosminsky has, very precisely, laid out the room so that a huge open fire is in the centre. This represents hell, evil and Heathcliff. Kosminsky uses this scene as a major contributor to setting up the gothic and supernatural theme of the novel. Lockwood proceeds into the room and walks towards the fire, again Kosminsky uses this as a symbol of hell and evil. With Lockwood walking straight into Wuthering Heights and towards the fire, he walks directly into his meeting with the devil himself, Heathcliff.
Alone and inspecting his surrounds, Lockwood stumbles across a ghostly portrait of Cathy Earnshaw, which is ironically hung immediately above the fire. The fire itself resemble hell and that is now where Cathy is. The camera zooms into the painting and clearly shows what she looks like. As Lockwood turns around a bolt of lightning reveals an almost identical figure sitting in a chair. This is Catherine Heathcliff, daughter of Cathy Earnshaw and Edgar Linton. Kosminsky has young Catherine exposed by a flash as if someone has taken a photograph, this immediately makes you notice her ghostly figure.
Not only does she look as if she has been photographed, she also looks very statuesque and cadaverous. In the split second she is shown, Kosminsky successfully makes her seem remarkably paranormal. Peter Kosminsky has Heathcliff arrive once Lockwood has already entered. Heathcliff is introduced with a crash of thunder and a flash of lightning, this portrays the character he is. The camera angle changes back to the shot of the door with the fire flickering and casting eerie shadows on the walls and furniture. Hareton enters first and walks towards the camera, he carries a gun and is dressed in animal fur.
Kosminsky uses mise-en scene to show the wild nature in Hareton’s character. Heathcliff follows and also walks towards the camera. Kosminsky however makes him seem much bigger than Hareton, this shows the importance, power and leadership in Heathcliff. By having the fire flicker on his face, Kosminsky doesn’t just use his size to show dominance, he has Heathcliff become part of the fire and flame, and thus part of hell. This clearly shows a supernatural, sinister and satanic side to Heathcliff. He then abruptly departs with Hareton, leaving Lockwood in the capable hands of young Catherine.
Juxtaposed against Heathcliff’s lack of hospitality Catherine is angelic, again showing the ambiguity of the story. The pivotal moment in the film is when Cathy’s ghost appears at, and smashes through, the window. Throughout the opening Kosminsky has dropped several hints of a supernatural theme. This scene acts as a catalyst to ensure that the audience, if they don’t already, know the main theme of the film. Successfully showing his version of the novel, Peter Kosminsky has used a gothic and supernatural genre to drive the ‘unnatural’, almost incestuous love story to his conclusion beyond the grave.