Emily Bronte was a clergyman’s daughter. She grew up in a remote part of England. She didn’t like to travel. When she left home she became ill. She never married and she died at the age of 30 having published her only novel and some poetry. It was one of the most shocking novel in English literature. When it was first published 1847, it created a firestorm of protest. It was called one of the most repellent book ever published. One critic said it should be burnt. The protest only settle down when the second edition came out and the author was revealed to be the daughter of a parson from west-Yorkshire. How had a parson’s daughter created such a threat to civilized society as Heathcliff, a   hero driven by sexual passion and vengeance and instead of a proper Victorian heroine she gave the world a married woman who runs around on the moor in her nightgown with her lover. The reading public was shocked. Shocked. But the novel has never been out of print and has had many film/ TV adaptations. WUTHERING HEIGHTS. (from Masterpiece Classic presentation)

I’ve re-watched all the film/TV adaptations I’ve got in my DVD collection in order to compare and decide which one I liked best.

1. Wuthering Heights film 1992 starring Juliette Binoche (Catherine Earnshaw), Ralph Fiennes (Heathcliff)  with Jeremy Northam (Hindley Earnshaw)

2. Wuthering Heights Tv movie 1998 starring Orla Brady and  Robert Cavanagh with Matthew MacFadyen and Sarah Smart

3. Masterpiece Classic 2009 two-part series WUTHERING HEIGHTS with Tom Hardy, Charlotte Riley, Andrew Lincoln

4. SPARKHOUSE, Sally Wainwright ‘s BBC drama (2003), inspired to Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights  starring Sarah Smart, Joe McFadden and Richard Armitage

It has been a real marathon, full of passion and fury, tragedy and romance. This is one of the stories I’ve loved reading the most and which most move me to tears each time.
I first thought I could have used this post as one of the entries for my PERIOD DRAMA CHALLENGE  in the section VICTORIAN MIST but then I decided this story is absolutely non-Victorian, in spite of the date of its publication. It is Romantic in its mood; it has  a Byronic hero as its male protagonist and  a totally atypical female protagonist, too wild and passionate, too free and self-determined to embody the Victorian "angel of the hearth". Wuthering Heights is terribly modern in its originality. Impossible to label it  in a definite genre. What I am sure of  is that it is not Victorian.


The most grey and bleak of the three adaptations I saw. Quite accurately based on the original text, it starts with a female figure wandering on the moors and revisiting the story she has heard about and decided to write: Catherine’s and Heathcliff’s tragic love story. It’s the first WUTHERING HEIGHTS I saw and the one I’m more affectionate to. Some details are given for granted but those who well know the story don’t need them to catch the dramaticity and beauty of these beloved characters and of their doomed lives. Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche are absolutely convincing.


Not so different in its structure from the 1992 film, some scenes are pretty similar. Still very near to the original text. Not exceptionally good. I don’t particularly like the two actors starring as the two unfortunate lovers. It has received much interest later on, after Pride and Prejudice 2005 was released, when a huge number of new Darcy’s fans started looking for more Matthew Macfadyen’s work. He is, in fact, in this movie as handsome Hareton, Hindley Earnshaw ’s son.

WUTHERING HEIGHTS- Masterpiece Classic 2009

Of course the script writers had to adapt this story for modern American and European modern  audience and they changed a good deal of details though substantially the plot is the one we very well know. I appreciated the effort to popularize such a classic novel but I must admit I don’t think it was so necessary to add violence to already violent characters like Heathcliff or Hindley and neither to show what happened in a "marital bed" (Shakespeare?) at night in those years, too. I loved the costumes and the locations of this Masterpiece Classic version.  (CLICK to see a BEHIND THE SCENES VIDEO)


Just "inspired" to Wuthering Heights, SPARKHOUSE tells the story of contemporary teenagers. Carol lives at run-down Sparkhouse Farm with her drunken, abusive father, Richard (Alun Armstrong), and younger sister, Lisa. Across the valley live the middle-class Lawtons - Andrew, and his parents Paul and Kate. Carol and Andrew have been inseparable since childhood. At the beginning of the drama, they are 18 and passionately in love, a love that is raw, urgent and powerful. Carol is feisty and reckless, a young woman who is mistrusted and disliked by Andrew's parents who try to keep them apart. The only place they can be together is a ruined farmhouse up on the moors.

John Standring (Richard Armitage) works at Sparkhouse Farm. Loyal, hard-working, and painfully shy, he loves Carol. At first only a peripheral character, he gradually moves towards the centre of the drama.
The story covers approximately 5 years, and follows Carol and Andrew's attempts to be together in spite of numerous obstacles.

Just a curiosity, Sarah Smart interpreted Catherine Linton in Wuthering Heights 1998 and in Sparkhouse is, instead, the female protagonist, Heathcliff 's counterpart in this modern drama.

(Sarah as Cathy Jr in 1998)

(Sarah as Carol in 2003)

UNFORGETTABLE QUOTES (from 1998 adaptation) AND SCENES (from 1992 film)

1. Catherine is talking about her intention to accept Edgar Linton's marriage proposal to Nellie, her old faithful maid servant:

“If Heathcliff and I married we should be beggars. Whereas if I marry Linton, I can aid Heathcliff to rise and place him out of my brother’s power.”

“That’s a terrible reason for marrying Linton”

“It’s the best reason. I do love Edgar. But my love for him is like …is like the foliage in the woods. Time will change it. But my love for Heathcliff is like the eternal rocks beneath. Nellie, I am Heathcliff. He is always, always in my mind. Not as a pleasure, any more than I am a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.”

2. Catherine is dying and asks Heathcliff forgiveness for marrying Linton . He answers:

“I forgive what you’ve done to me. I love my murderer. But yours…How can I?”

3. After Catherine’s death, Heathcliff is desperate and shouts:

“I pray one prayer. I repeat till my toungue stiffens. Catherine Earnshaw may you not rest as long as I am living. Haunt me! Take any form, drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss where I cannot find you. I cannot live without my life. I cannot live without my soul”.


P.S. I have - but did not want to re-watch - an Italian  adaptation of Wuthering Heights (RAI 2004).

Can you imagine why? Too many changes, too many cuts. It's a total re-invention of the story as it happened with the latest Italian DAVID COPPERFIELD. Fortunately, I can watch movies and drama coming from Britain. They still seem to respect their classics. What about the new EMMA? Have you seen the first episode?


Luciana said...

Hello! It's been some days since I last came here, but after a week of tests I finally can! Wuthering Heights is a book that puzzles me exceedingly. I need to read it once more. I wanted to watch the 1992 version but I've never had the opportunity. The only version I've seen so far of WH is the one from 1939 with Lawrence Olivier, but I didn't like it very much because they only did half of the book. They are doing a new version of it with Gemma Arterton as Catherine Earnshaw and Ed Westwick as Heathcliff, so, we'll see about it. I've heard about Sparkhouse, but never tried to know more about it, but RA looks very cute with that Yorkshire accent in this clip, so I'll try to watch it too!

Stephanie Allen said...

I thought about using the 1939 film, too, but then I thought about it and realized that the story is set in the late 1700s, making it Georgian. Though, since this is my favorite book, I still want to watch all of the adaptations.

Maria Grazia said...

@Luciana and Stephanie
I can imagine you are totally taken by your uni tasks, L. Thanks for dropping by and commenting. A new Wuthering Heights? Again? There are so many classics deserving and waiting for an adaptation. I'd like to see new period dramas based on different classics.
I haven't seen the 1939 adaptation though I've heard about it. There is also another British one from the 70s but ... I think I'll stop here in spite of my love for this novel!
Thanks to both for your comments.

Lotta Dahl said...

I love WH! I just watched the 2009 version a couple of weeks ago. I loved SH, I thought it was a unique and inovation reinvention of the story. AND of course it has RA... RA fighting and being vulnerable and adorable! lol what's not to love? I am torn between the traditional versions. I love ralph fiennes as Heathcliff, I loved the cathy from the 2009 version and SS and Matthew MacFadyum from the other version.

Maria Grazia said...

@Jenny Kerr
You don't have necessarily to choose. You can love them all, differently. Cheers!

London Belle said...


don't know if you've seen it yet - the first episode is fantastic!

Maria Grazia said...

@London Belle
I'm afraid this service is not available to people living outside the UK. But I've got lovely, kind, generous blogger friends ... just like you, Belle! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Wuthering Heights! What a great work! I don't think I've ever seen Sparkhouse...


Maria Grazia said...

Sparkhouse...I bought the DVD couple of years ago. It was a bargain at Amazon UK. They said it was inspired to Wuthering Heights and I was curious to see it. But I didn't do it till last year, when, after watching NORTH & SOUTH, I discovered Richard Armitage was in it. I immediately remember I had bought that DVD and watched it! Good modern drama. RA gives a terribly good performance, appealing, touching.

lunarossa said...

Again, didn't know the WH version with Fiennes and Binoche. I would really be interested to watch it. Have you ever been to Hawarth? If you visit the Bronte village you will understand better why the sisters wrote so little but so intensly. The nature around is still very rough and dounting! And the atmospehere is still pretty "dark" ....Thanks again for your suggestions. Ciao. A.

Maria Grazia said...

Hawarth? No, never been there. Just read about it. There is still so much I have to see in England! Thanks, A. , as usual, for your kind contribution!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading this very much, Maria - great idea to compare the versions. I'll admit my favourite is still the Laurence Olivier film, even though it isn't very true to the book - it is so romantic and so full of atmosphere.

I saw the new adaptation recently - by the way I believe it was made by ITV in the UK although it was shown first on the American Masterpiece Classic series. I liked it for the most part, though I wasn't too sure it was a good idea to spend so much time on the second generation. I'd really like to see it again soon...

I've also recently bought a box set of costume dramas which includes an older version from 1970 starring Timothy Dalton and Anna Calder-Marshall - have you seen that one? I am hoping to see it soon and would also be very interested to see the Ralph Fiennes version. Must admit I didn't like 'Sparkhouse' very much because I thought Alun Armstrong was so over the top and there was so much violence - I did like Richard Armitage in it, you'll be relieved to hear:) but didn't like the programme in general as much as I hoped to.

Maria Grazia said...

Thanks for commenting, Judy. I haven't seen the 1939 version with Lawrence Olivier nor the adaptation from 70s, so I didn't write about them. Have a nice day!

Mo said...

I wonder how the critics would react to books and movies we produce now, that make Jane Austin seem puritanical in comparison.

Nat at RA FanBlog said...

My favorite is the 1992 version too. I think Fiennes makes the perfect Heathcliff: handsome, passionate, mean, creepy... but I can't help but root for him. Kind of like Gisborne.
I think it's the only version where the same actress played both Catherine and Cathy, right?

Maria Grazia said...

You're perfectly right: in the 1992 adaptation Juliette Binoche stars as both Catherine and Cathy Jr.
Heathcliff and Gisborne? Well, Heathcliff is definitely better written. I thunk he is even wilder and meaner than Guy. I real Byronic hero.

Table Talk said...

My guilty literary secret is that I have never read 'Wuthering Heights' and have no desire to do so. I have three copies of it, all given to me by well-meaning friends who have thought that this would spur me on. It didn't!

Maria Grazia said...

Don't feel guilty Ann! You've read so many valuable literary treasures. You can't force yourself and you mustn't. Reading should be a pleasure!Hugs.

Avalon said...

Ordered from Netflix, never seen the 1992 one so wont have anything to compare it to.

Unknown said...

I agree, the 2009 Wuthering Heights did get a bit explicit, I still enjoyed it for the setting, performances, and pacing. And I did develop sort of a thing for Tom Hardy. I barely remember the 1998 version though...can't even remember enough to know if I ever saw it all the way through! That is sad. :P I really, really want to see Sparkhouse...I've heard so many good things about it, plus it could help feed my RA obsession. But I don't think it's ever been available as a region 1 DVD release...