The Book Group: Wuthering Heights

An essential guide to Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights as seen on screen.

Everyone has read Wuthering Heights, haven’t they? A staple of English literature syllabuses and among the most heavily borrowed classics in British libraries, Emily Brontë’s magical study of the dark extremes of passion on the windswept Yorkshire Moors was first published in 1847 under her pseudonym Ellis Bell.

Several great film directors have attempted the task of transferring the novel’s complex narrative to the screen, most famously William Wyler with his 1939 feature starring Laurence Olivier in his first Hollywood role. Others include Luis Buñuel (Abismos de Pasión, 1954) and Jacques Rivette (Hurlevent, 1985), who boldly spurned Brontë Country by filming in Mexico and France.

For this collection we’ve gathered five British adaptations of Wuthering Heights together with documentaries exploring the novel and its enigmatic author. You can compare three BBC adaptations, including a one-off special directed by television pioneer Rudolph Cartier and starring Claire Bloom as Cathy, unseen since its first broadcast in 1962; consider a young Timothy Dalton’s portrayal of the brooding Heathcliff in the 1970 feature film; or tag along with Joan Bakewell as she joins the well-trodden tourist trail in The Brontë Business (1977). Here is the perfect opportunity to consider how successfully you think our writers, directors and actors have interpreted this beloved but challenging book.

Our collection would not be complete without acknowledging a certain hit single by Kate Bush, which propelled this Victorian novel into modern pop culture: as an extra treat we’ve included the iconic music video for ‘Wuthering Heights’, shown during a Top of the Pops Christmas special in 1978.

So without further ado, out on the wild, windy moors we go…

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