Reading Joshua Rothman’s musings on the impermeability of Wuthering Heights to screen adaptation, I hoped that he would nod to Abismo de pasión, Luis Buñuel’s early fifties Mexican soaper in which the novel’s hysteria and violence are unmistakeable. It’s possible that the film’s $26 budget and kabuki acting were the means by which Buñuel preserved Emily Brontë’s spirit; like the other films from his Mexican period, bits of surreality kept him awake. I haven’t seen it since checking out my university library’s VHS copy in the mid nineties; the tape transference seemed to require rubbing the film with sand, so I don’t doubt its grotesque visual qualities contributed to my sense that unlike, say, the purchasing of shoes the best effects require low budgets.
The first “adult” novels I read at thirteen were Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. Part of the affront that Brontë’s novel represented at the time was disentangling a genealogy in which Earnshaws, Lintons, and Heathcliffs trade names like Heathcliff himself trades insults with, well, everyone in earshot. During the violet hour of a period when my radical Catholicism was untested, the paganism of WH floored me. Instead of a benevolent god, the novel shows characters who aren’t human so much as mistakes of the earth like fungi or tree stumps. They’re riven by passions which drive them to punish their beloveds. Hate has rarely felt like a natural consequence of love. Not even a consequence: a synonym.