Thecurrent paper aims to analyze the clip taken from the Wuthering Heights film directed by Willian Wyler in 1939. A close look at the plot of the film indicates that the narrative is based on the gothic novel by Emily Bronte. This book is considered to be a classic of English literature. The film version is based on the first half of Brontë’s novel. It means that it focuses on the romantic relationship between Cathy Earnshaw and Heathcliff. The primary topic of the plot is also influenced by the tradeoff between true love and necessary conditions, such as economy background and social position.
The chosen clip represents the first meet of Cathy and Heathcliff after Heathcliff’s return. By this moment, Cathy has married her wealthy neighbor called Edgar Linton, while Heathcliff has become a wealthy and well-mannered gentleman after his trip to America. Thus, his appearance and manners are just as Cathy wants them to be. Film language of this film clip reveals the fact that Cathy faces the serious dilemma. She seems to be satisfied with her married life. However, she is mentally separated from her current high-status life and real feelings. Heathcliff’s return gradually awakens her soul and passion, especially in accordance with the memories of their past relationship.
During the development of the clip, it becomes clear that Cathy is following the lifestyle of her husband. Furthermore, she got used to it. It is necessary to highlight that in this clip, all masters and mistresses are dressed in suits or silk dresses. These elegant costumes represent the high social status of the characters and social surrounding of Cathy. The change of costumes during the film would be the symbol of social status in the rest of this film.
It is impossible to understand the basic idea of the film and clip without the analysis of the dresses and social events. Dress plays a huge role in determining of the social status (Twigg 24-26) For instance, at Wuthering Heights Cathy dresses tweeds and her hair hangs down on shoulders, which means that she is not from wealthy family. At this moment, Cathy is longing for higher social status. Her intention for better living is indicated by her desire to dress dancing costumes when she observes Linton’s party from outside window. She expresses her hope that Heathcliff would achieve better social status by imaging him to wear a red velvet coat and dance with her. After Cathy is injured, recovered and returned from the Grange, she wears a formal dress with hat and arranged curly hair. This type of dressing indicates that her social status is rising. In the examined clip, Cathy wears a strapless silk dress with flowers, which is similar to the formal dress we mentioned above. This dress indicates that Cathy gets the lifestyle she wanted and her social status is rising.
At the same time, Cathy’s attitudes towards costumes represent her struggle between the feelings and social status. She shows off her formal dress to Ellen after her return. When she insults Heathcliff and wants to ask for forgiveness, she takes off and tear up her formal dress, puts on her tweed dress, and returns to normal hairstyle to meet Heathcliff at the crag. In the clip, Cathy is calmly dressed in the silk dress, her attitude towards her costume is not polarized, not too happy, and not too furious. She wears this elegant dress just as she is supposed to wear this. Hence, we can understand that Cathy is used to her high status married life.
Later in the clip, the close-up of Cathy’s angel embroidery and Edgar’s lines about “heaven” both suggest that Cathy seems to be satisfied with her current high-status life. In Cathy’s previous small talk with Ellen about Edgar’s proposal, Ellen asks whether the Grange means “heaven” to Cathy and suggests her to join Edgar’s family to become an “angel”. Years later, Edgar tells to Cathy that he feels the Grange is his heaven. Cathy replies him by showing the embroidery on which she is working, which is a small point hero with wings. The camera stays on Cathy’s embroidery and Cathy’s left hand for a few seconds. Both the angel symbol and the ring on Cathy’s hand imply that Cathy becomes a member of Lindon family and enjoys a heavenly life.
As a result of these changes, the another question rises. It is import to understand whether Cathy truly enjoys her life without Heathcliff, who is her true love. In the film clip, Edgar usually talks to Cathy behind her chair. This chair together with Cathy’s passive reaction to Edgar indicates that Cathy is separated from the life she thought she would enjoy. The chair between Edgar and Cathy separates the couple. As a result of this separation, Cathy just moves her eyes or head to talk to Edgar while her body stays motionless. The shots of this couple are usually medium shots. They lack the sense of intimacy between Cathy and Edgar. Thus, even in the close-up scene when Edgar comforts Cathy about Heathcliff’s return she avoids making eye contact with Edgar until Edgar holds her chin to let her facing him. Cathy’s reaction and separation with the chair weaken their couple intimacy. This sense of separation seems to echo with Cathy’s dream that she mentioned to Ellen. This dream shows that heaven is not the home for Cathy. Thus, one day she will try her best to come back to the place where she belongs.
From Cathy’s body movement and the continuity editing of reverse shot between Cathy and Heathcliff’s conversation, we can find that her affection to Heathcliff still exists. Their embedded love can be highlighted by contrasting Cathy’s reaction towards Edgar and Heathcliff respectively. When Heathcliff arrives, we can witness that Heathcliff talks to Cathy from the side of Cathy’s chair. His relative position to Cathy is different from that of Edgar. Thus, Cathy turned her body spontaneously as Heathcliff arrives. Her reaction is not passive but active. Heathcliff’s positioning and Cathy’s body movement show that they both are willing to see each other.
The analysis of the structure of the clip shows that the director uses close-up and eyeliner match to represent their conversation. The close-up of Cathy and Heathcliff reveals their facial expressions, especially the movement of their eyes. From Heathcliff’s eyes looking at the off-screen Cathy, we can feel how much he missed Cathy. Due to Cathy’s identity as Edgar’s wife, she hides from Heathcliff’s gaze for several times. However, her eyes towards the off-screen Heathcliff is deep and true. Director links these shots to a sequence. The audience understands that Cathy and Heathcliff are looking at each other. They can also feel that these two characters are connected. Compared to the medium shot between Cathy and Edgar, the close-up of Cathy and Heathcliff creates a sense of private intimacy between them, which indicates that their past relationship may surface and then flare up.
It is essential to conclude that from the costume Cathy wears and the close-up of angel embroidery, we can notice that Cathy lives the elegant life she once dreamed of. It is understandable that she got used to it. However, her interaction with her husband Edgar indicates that she stays aloof from her high-status lifestyle. Even though she calmly reacts with Heathcliff, the director uses the continuity editing between shots and reverse shots to shorten the distance that Cathy wants to keep from Heathcliff. This part of the clip represents that her intimacy with Heathcliff still exists and she is under the sway of emotions after Heathcliff returns to the county. Thus, in the clip, the director uses various film languages to represent Cathy and Heathcliff’s meet and successfully indicates the beginning of the second stage of their relationship.
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Twigg, Julia. 2013. Fashion and Age: Dress, the Body, and Later Life. Bloomsbury Academic. Print.