by Del Harvey
Masterpiece Theatre brings us the latest adaptation of the classic Emily Bronte novel. Screening Sundays, January 18 and 25 at 9pm ET.
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PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre brings us the latest adaptation of Emily Bronte’s classic tale of destructive love. This was Emily’s only novel, but it remains a classic of the gothic romance genre, and has yet to be remade absolutely true to the book. This version was adapted by Peter Bowker, British screenwriter whose previous work includes episodes of Blackpool, Canterbury Tales, and Where The Heart Is. This version omits the character of Lockwood entirely, as well as Nelly Dean’s narrative, preferring to offer us a rather dark view of Heathcliffe and Cathy’s romance in all its self-destructive glory.
Tom Hardy plays Heathcliffe and Charlotte Riley is Cathy. Hardy was the “nemesis” in the Star Trek film of the same name, and has been in a number of other films since. In this adaptation he is presented as something of a hulking, brooding brute rather than a forlorn lover. Cathy is presented as something of a nature girl willing to follow in Heathcliffe’s shadow rather than do anything to preserve her good name and reputation. In the end, I found Cathy’s story to be much more believable in this telling. Heathcliffe came off as a bit too much of a brute, and Hardy’s persona was just overbearing enough to put me off him as an actor; but this is a personal observation. I sense that my reaction will likely be the case for any viewer; either you will or you won’t like the character as written by Bowker and presented by Hardy.
Much of Bronte’s original story is intact, save for a few minor alterations which are simply conveyances for story and character transition, and which are presented true to the nature of the story. In fact, I found this adaptation to be quite intriguing. When considering the many previous filmings of this work, ranging from the well-known Lawrence Olivier-Merle Oberon piece to the more recent variant with Juliette Binoche portraying both Cathy and her daughter Catherine, I would have to say that this version definitely ranks among those worth watching, for the adaptation as much as the actor’s interpretation of the roles.
This version premieres on PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre, Sundays, January 18 and 25 at 9pm ET.
Del Harvey is the founder of Film Monthly, a film teacher, a writer and a film critic in Chicago.
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