Oh God, it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!’

Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

What I’ve been re-watching for the All About the Brontes Challenge is the modern-day version of Wuthering Heights , or better the 2002 BBC series thus presented. Emily Bronte ’s evergreen romance has inspired many TV and film adaptations, including Robert Fuest's 1970 film starring Timothy Dalton as Heathcliff and Anna Calder-Marshall as Cathy. In 1992 Pewter Kosminsky revisited the story with Juliette Binoche and Ralph Fiennes in the lead roles and the latest version is quite recent, 2009 . I posted about the several adaptions I’ve seen so far in A WUTHERING WEEKEND .

In this loosely –based- on modern version Heathcliff is a young working -class woman called Carol Bolton, who is in love with her middle class neighbour, Andrew. So the class relationship between Bronte's uncultured Heathcliff and the upper class Cathy has been reversed. And it is middle-class Andrew's parents who want him to leave Cathy and go to university.

The three-part TV drama is   SPARKHOUSE (2003) ,  filmed in Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire, northern England - not far from Haworth, where Emily Bronte grew up. Producer Derek Wax believed the story's themes are perennial: "The battle between passionate love and economic necessity; following your heart, or doing something expedient, or socially desirable. These questions are the same in the 21st century as they were in the 19th."

The storyline

• Carol Bolton is a feisty, passionate and reckless young woman who life has dealt a raw deal. She lives in poverty-stricken Sparkhouse Farm with a drunken and abusive father, Richard. Carol is determined to protect those closest to her - younger sister Lisa and her soul mate since childhood, Andrew Lawton.

(Carol and Andrew reading Wuthering Heights on the moors)

• Andrew and Carol's love is not a teenage crush. Their passion is urgent, powerful, enormous, like the landscape they share; the raw energy of the wind, the awesome loneliness of the moors. Yet all of this is in danger of being destroyed when a Pandora's Box of secrets and lies is forced open. Andrew's parents are strongly against the match and ensure that he goes away to college. Andrew is frightened by what he discovers about Carol and leaves...

• After another violent attack of her father against her, Carol runs away from home with her younger sister, Lisa,  in order to protect the latter from their father's violence.

• (After three years) Andrew has tried to forget his passion for Carol and is back to his family home married to a sweet young woman he met at university . (Parallelism with Wuthering Heights  : Catherine’s marriage to Linton)

• Carol too is back : her father's farmhand John Standring, has searched and found her in order to inform that her father is seriously ill , Carol’s rage and disappointment are unrestrainable (Heathcliff's furious reaction to Cathy's marriage)

• After the death of her father and since Andrew has also had a baby from the woman he married, Carol seeks solace with her father's farmhand, tender and caring John Standring, and works with him to protect her family (Lisa) and the farm. (Heathcliff ‘s marriage to Isabella Linton)

• But the bonds which have always linked Andrew and Carol cannot be easily cut ... as it happens in Wuthering Heights between Catherine and Heathcliff, their love will survive tragedy and even death.

(Andrew reading Wuthering Heights to his pupils)

 I loved and still love this series a lot, though  at first I was a bit disappointed because I couldn't  find as much Wuthering Heights as I expected buying the DVD in 2006.  This modern-day retelling of Wuthering Heights is a gripping  compelling story, with memorable characters and a complex plot.  Heathcliff/Carol Bolton, the daughter of an abusive, alcoholic father who molests her,  is incredibly well portrayed by Sarah Smart ( who had been Cathy Jr in 1999 version of Wuthering Heights).  Andrew and Carol, Cathy and Heathcliff , are torn apart by the upper class family of the boy and this will condemn them to unhappiness.  The subplots and supporting characters are all very contemporary with contemporary conflicts and passions. Some  viewers  may be confused by the gender-switch in the story  or disturbed by the bluntness of some scenes and dialogues. But I'm convinced , instead, that Sparkhouse  is worth seeing .

The Cast

• Carol Bolton - Sarah Smart
• Richard Bolton - Alun Armstrong
• Lisa Bolton - Abigail James
• Andrew Lawton - Joseph McFadden
• John Standring - Richard Armitage
• Kate Lawton - Celia Imrie
• Paul Lawton - Nicholas Farrell

About me and  John Standring

You've seen Richard Armitage in the pictures above as John Standring (the Isabella Linton of this story) , one of his most  touching interpretations. I must confess I didn't notice him the first time I saw this series, 'cause my attention was focused on the main hero that is  Andrew /Joe MacFadden and ... well... John  was a very sweet lovely guy but we didn't hit it off at the time! Then, when I saw Richard as John Thornton in North and South in 2008 for the first time, I came to "notice" him  and started searching for information about that unknown (then!) Mr Armitage.  I discovered he had worked in Sparkhouse but I couldn't recall him. I neither recognized him immediately when I played Sparkhouse again in search for broody Thornton! Now I would catch the glimpse of RA even with a mask on his handsome face, I bet. And I'd recognize his voice among thousands. So ... it was not love at first sight, you see! Now, I must admit, John Standring is one of my favorite among Richard's characters.

I want to leave you with three final caps....

Picture 1. Lisa Bolton (Carol's younger sister in Sparkhouse)  and John Standring (Carol's husband in the same series) - (2003)

Pictures 2 and 3

Guy  and Meg in Robin Hood 3 (2009)

Lovely couple, aren't they?


Luciana said...

I've always felt a little suspicious about Sparkhouse. I don't know why, maybe because they changed the sexes of the characters or because the first adaptation - and only one so far - I've seen was too disappointing... I laughed a lot on your account of you and John Stranding!

Maria Grazia said...

You must see it, Luciana. I think you'd like it. Just forget about Wuthering Heights and enjoy it as a well written and well performed modern drama. Awww,John Standring! I'm sure he has forgiven me. He is so understanding and generous!

Judy said...

Must admit I didn't really like this version because I thought it was too violent, especially some of the scenes with Alun Armstrong, but you have written a lovely piece about it, Maria. I did like Richard Armitage in it, though...

jennyjkerr said...

I loved this movie but it was SO frustrating. RA plays such a loving, caring person and gets crapped all over. The fight scenes are delicious! I think the main character was crazy! I guess that is all part of the story though. If I was married to RA I'd never leave my little sheep farm, especially not to chase some other woman's husband!

Maria Grazia said...

I think violence in this TV drama is justified by the plot and not so terrible. Sometimes TV movies are so full of gratuitous violence and sex that ... Anyhow, I respect your opinion,of course. Yes, RA did an excellent job with Standring. Thanks for commenting!
HEllo there! It's been some time ... Glad to hear form you again! You're right it's painful to see how disloyal Carol is to poor John! But ... you know... I've searched the net in search for some pictures of Andrew /Joe McFadden and ...I only found loads of pics of RA/John -Standring. So I had to make stills myself! ;-)

Traxy said...

Great review, and lots of nice photos to go with it! :) I really liked John Standring as well, because he was just SO SWEET! Clueless, kind and a bit fumbling but gosh, you just want to give him a hug and make him sausages and mash!

lunarossa said...

Really liked Sparkhouse and actually I didn't think too much of Wuthering Heights watching it. Loved RA in it, superb! Have a nice weekend. Ciao. A.

Maria Grazia said...

Yeah we all tend to be protective to John Standring. Even wild Carol in two or three moments in the series!
Buon fine settimana anche a te, A.!

mulubinba said...

I saw Sparkhouse before Wuthering Heights. When I finally got to see one of the BBC versions of WT, I could only see minor comparisons between the two. I enjoyed Sparkhouse for RA's performance but found the version of Wuthering Heights I saw very hard going indeed. (I will have to check which one it was). I much prefer Austen and Gaskell!

Maria Grazia said...

I can understand you. I too prefer lighter stories to the tragic bleak Wuthering House, anyhow I must admit it has fascinating characters and a certain complexity which makes it rather modern for the time it was written. It's a passionate tale which tells about an unfortunate couple of lovers but ends in hope with Hareton and Cathy Jr. Did you see the 1999 adaptation with Matthew McFadyen as Hareton or the latest one (2009) ?

Unknown said...

Great post! I really wish Sparkhouse was available in the US, I'd love to see it.

Nat at RA FanBlog said...

You know Sparkhouse isn't my favorite RA film, but after reading your review, I'm going to have to give it another look. :)

Fanny/iz4blue said...

i just finished watching Sparkhouse again and love it more than Wuthering Heights. All the actions/behaviours of the characters have a reason where I often feel with WH it was contrived for the drama/storyline. It has some harsh scenes, what disturbed the most is what language/advice little Alisa is exposed too from Carol. As a sideline I particularly liked when Andrew's dad realizes the mistake they did as parents and gave his son a similar fate to his own; passing up the love of his life.
No need to mention RA (btw I did discover this beautiful drama thanks to the fandom)you've said it all.
Nice production values and love the hypnotic soundtrack.

Maria Grazia said...

Sparkhouse is one of my favourite among RA's works. Guess what! I bought it before North and South but didn't have time to watch it or maybe I just watched the beginning and didn't like it 'cause I expected something more "brontean". Then I watched N&S and I started searching the Net for news about brooding JT and ... discovered he was in Sparkhouse too ... Finally ...I got to love tender, strong, loyal John Standring too.

Fanny/iz4blue said...

Hey Maria, I forgot to subscribe and only just spotted your reply. Yes, Sparkhouse is right after the impressionist for me, of course right behind the obvious first. And we'll never see him in such a role again of course.