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Wuthering Heights (DVD)

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

TO ACHIEVE lasting acclaim for an only novel is a rare thing. Margaret Mitchell did it with Gone with the Wind and so too did Emily Bronte with her timeless classic Wuthering Heights.

Not surprisingly, both have been adapted for screen, the latter most recently by Peter Bowker whose previous credits include the well received Desperate Romantics.

Many of you will, of course, be familiar with the story but for those of you like me who have neither read the book nor seen the films, Wuthering Heights is set against the bleak, windswept Yorkshire Moors and explores the doomed love between Cathy Earnshaw and her brooding adoptive brother Heathcliff, played in Bowker’s adaptation by Charlotte Riley and Tom Hardy who, it just so happens, also starred alongside each other in The Take.

Described as one of English literature’s most complex and passionate novels, Wuthering Heights tackles thorny issues such as love and hate, revenge and class – no mean feat for a woman in Victorian England – and is therefore a dark and, at times, brutal tale. It’s also strangely moving.

The two leads are superb. Hardy imbues Heathcliff with an intensity of passion and menace totally befitting the character – definitely not a man to cross swords with. So full marks to Burn Gorman’s Hindley for daring to do just that. For the uninitiated, Hindley is Cathy’s biological brother who, after their father’s death, relegates Heathcliff to the status of servant. Not a good idea!

And Riley is perfect as the spirited but tantalizing Cathy who, forever within yet just beyond Heathcliff’s reach – except of course in death – wounds him deeply when she succumbs to the attentions and life style of neighbouring land owner Edgar Linton (Andrew Lincoln) and marries him.

But as we all know by now, Cathy is in love with Heathcliff so it’s not a happy marriage which is a pity, for Lincoln’s amiable and upstanding Edgar certainly deserves better.

Sarah Lancashire also deserves special mention. As devoted housemaid Nellie she positively shines in a role so far removed from her Coronation Street persona, the glamorous but ditzy barmaid Raquel, that she’s barely recognizable. Which shows just how far she’s come since her last appearance in the popular ‘soap’.

Bowker may have taken the odd liberty or two with Bronte’s original (or so I’m reliably informed) but the essence of the story remains unchanged. And it is undeniably bleak.

Nevertheless, fine performances, exquisite costumes and a fittingly wild landscape make Wuthering Heights compulsive viewing, particularly if you’re a fan of the novel. Just don’t expect a happy ending.

Certificate: 15
UK DVD Release: September 7, 2009