In recent years and in many of today’s most popular television series, the “anti-hero” has gained precedence. Before Walter White and Don Draper, there was a fellow who brought unrest to the English moors. Heathcliff and his brooding, dark demeanor is Emily Bronte’s contribution to the “anti-hero”. Written under her pseudonym Ellis Bell, Bronte’s Wurthering Heights rattled societal conventions and roused controversy and criticism. A “dark skinned gypsy” falls in love with Catherine Earnshaw, a woman of noble standing.
In the PBS Masterpiece Classic, Tom Hardy plays the role of Heathcliff. His portrayal is ominous, seductive, and brutish. One of the main reasons I enjoyed this version so much was because of Hardy’s performance. He was able to capture Heathcliff’s inner torment and demonstrates the destructive forces of his obsessive love for Catherine.
“You said I killed you. Haunt me, then. Be with me always. Take any form. Drive me mad, but don’t leave me in the abyss, where I cannot find you. I cannot live without my life. I cannot live without my soul.”
Mr. Earnshaw encounters a homeless boy on a trip to Liverpool. He adopts this boy and names him Heathcliff. Heathcliff joins Hindley and Catherine; Mr. Earnshaw’s other children. From the onset, Hindley senses his father’s affection for Heathcliff and becomes bitterly jealous.
“Your own father brought me home because he wanted a son that he could love.”
After acquiring Wuthering Heights from his father’s passing, Hindley demotes Heathcliff to a common labourer. Heathcliff vows to take his revenge against Hindley. Catherine even ponders whether or not his true passion is hate rather than love. She further questions Heathcliff’s thirst for vengeance by stating God’s role in punishing wicked people. To which Heathcliff replies, “No. He shall not the satisfaction that I shall.” Heathcliff disregards the lives of others. He is inconsiderate of the effects of his actions. In contrast, Catherine is very much the same. She even professes, “I am Heathcliff.”
Catherine marries Edgar Linton to acquire social recognition. In response, Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights to obtain a fortune of his own. He returns to the English moors as a gentleman and to settle his accounts with all who have wronged him. His new status attracts the attention of Edgar’s sister Isabelle. Heathcliff embrace’s this romance in order to spite Catherine. The young lover’s commit offences against one another. Their love is destructive. It consumes them and everyone around them. The effects of their love had left Catherine weak and weary. She passes away and leaves Heathcliff to “writhe in the torments of hell.”
Heathcliff sought to right all wrongs, to hurt those who hurt him, and in doing so, he lost the one he loved. The heart of this romance is brought to life by Hardy and Riley. It’s worth mentioning that the on screen couple tied the knot after completing the film. Their chemistry is undeniable, and every moment they share on screen is enchanting. As a viewer I felt privileged to see true love flourish before my eyes. Wuthering Heights is my favourite love story and the PBS film is my favourite interpretation thus far.