Run Time: 2 hours, 10 minutes
First Viewing: Summer of 2009 from Netflix.
Adaptation Accuracy/Dialogue: This is a French adaptation, set in 1931-1934 in "the Cévennes, an area historically associated with a stern rural Protestantism and characterized by a wild, sun-drenched landscape where isolated farms can be several miles apart." So, obviously, there will be a few changes, but not as many as you would think.
The film begins six months after Mr. Earnshaw...uh, wait, Monsieur Sevenier has passed away. Guillaume (Hindley) disapproves of his sister, Catherine's relationship with Roch (Heathcliff), whom he has banished to farm work. Roch and Catherine spy on the rich Landons, where Catherine gets her ankle caught in a bear trap. She stays for three weeks and comes back made over into a lady. She agrees to marry Olivier Landon (Edgar) causing Roch to run away. He returns three years later visits Catherine and buys the Heights from alcoholic Guillaume. Isabelle falls in love with him and forwardly invites herself to the Heights where she gets raped. Guillaume attempts to kill Roch but gets his head crushed in instead. Roch visits Catherine before she dies of some unnamed illness and her spirit haunts him.
Not much different, is it? Obviously the dialogue is all in French with English subtitles, which I'm sorry to say, doesn't stay very faithful to the original dialogue of the novel. There is a Nelly character (Helene) but no Lockwood, and therefore, no story-telling. We see the story as it's happening. This film only covers the first generation, and yet, once again, NO FRANCES. Therefore, Guillaume is a sourpuss drunk all of a sudden for no reason.
HOWEVER, probably the best thing this movie has going for it (at least in my opinion) is the first and possibly only filmed version of the Hindley threatens Nelly with a knife scene. In Chapter 9, shortly before Cathy states "I am Heathcliff", Hindley storms into the house after a night of drinking and demands to know where Hareton is. Nelly has hidden him and because her disobedience, Hindley grabs a knife and threatens to make her swallow it. Now, if you ask me (and others, mind you) this is a pretty sexually symbolic scene of their relationship. Usually since Nelly is always played by some old crone, it wouldn't work ore they're scrapped for time and just get to Cathy's confession. But, this version presents it and perhaps the strongest, most equal Hindley-Nelly relationship.
Guillaume Sevenier - (Olivier Cruviellier) Probably one of the most active Hindleys I've seen in a while. Granted, there's no Frances, but out of all the characters, he probably has the most personality and bite.
Costumes/Character Appearances -Set in the 30's, the women wear very sleek, airy dresses that accentuate their thin, boyish frames. Hair is period accurate. Interestingly in this version Catherine and Roch are blonde while Olivier and Isabelle are brunette. Since it's an update, this doesn't bother me.
Sets/Filming Locations - The sets were fine. Wuthering Heights was a very castle-y kind of building while the Grange looked like a very toned down Versailles. Also, since it's France, no moors, but these sprawling hills.
Music - There were about three blasts of this odd Bulgarian choir that sang at the beginning, after Roch left, and at the end. It sounded like something from The English Patient.
Overall Likes - Youthful actors; Young Nelly; Good Hindley; Knife scene!!!!; Simplicity; Isabella's journey;
Overall Dislikes - Downplayed Edgar and Isabella; Dialogue; SLOW; No France; Useless Joseph; Heathcliff without motive;
Final Thoughts - It's not that bad, but honestly it's not my pick for a Wuthering Heights adaptation to pop in on a rainy afternoon. It's very slow and very French and will be confusing if you don't know the story. Still, it's a solid effort, made by someone who wanted to make a good movie out of a great story. They also wanted to try something a little different than usual, so good for him.