ABISMOS DE PASSION
DIRECTOR: LUIS BUNUEL
COUNTRY: Spain 1954
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Agustin Jimenez;
MUSIC: Raul Lavista and taken from Richard Wagner;
CAST: Ernesto Alonso, Luis Aceves Castaneda, Irasema Dilian, Jaime Gonzalez, Jorge Mistral, Lilin Prado
I have always thought that this film was much more of a statement about the over rated films that the Hollywood and English factories were making at the time, but in all cases, were sacrificing the stories for the romantic and film appeal. Luis Bunuel, although obviously appreciating the famous Emily Bronte novel, however, also saw it as another chance for him to work on one of his favorite themes... contradictions, and love/hate relationships. He had several of those in his Mexican exile, and although disguised as comedies, they never got the attention of very many other countries and film reviewers, because Hollywood, and the richer factories controlled the market.
ABISMOS DE PASSION, badly titled for English release as "Wuthering Heights", is exactly what its title discusses... an abyss for passions, and in this case totally misguided and obsessive passions, in all directions. Of course, the original novel did have some terrible dysfunctional bits and pieces. But this film has nightmares for dysfunctions. And that aside, the story is pretty much the same, with the same conclusion -- well sort of.
And the ill fated love story that can never happen, comes about. Catalina marries for property and money, not for love. Her husband is a bit of a nothing. Her husband's younger sister, is impulsive and not altogether in one piece, and to get even with her brother decides that she also wants a piece of Alejandro, which makes things even more complicated. And when he comes back to take the neighboring farm from his own brother, a drunkard, just so he can be nearer Catalina, the die is cast for what is obviously going to be an emotional nightmare.
And like Hollywood, and the English versions of this film, it does things with a massive flair.... loud music, long shots, romantic scenes, and in between the total mayhem. I tend to think that this was Luis Bunuel's statement that he could also make a shitty hollywood film, for the "public", which he always thought was a ridiculous concept anyway. And in these moments, one can find almost copies of many moments taken from the Olivier film ( with Merle Oberon -- the worst Catherine of all time, although the prettiest ), and so many other romantic films. Spain can also do this, might have been the real story, not just Hollywood.
The film starts by saying that it is a faithful adaptation of the Emily Bronte novel, and it really is in many ways, despite its obviously pointed changes to aid the flow and complications in the film. Were it not the famous Bronte novel, this one might have been the better of the stories, as it has more elements of tragedy and chaos that the other story. The novel is more concerned with the ill fated love affair. This story is more concerned with everyone else involved in the whole thing, not just the two ill fated lovers. At stake are the younger sister who marries Alejandro to get even with her brother, and Alejandro's drunken brother, who spends his time beating up his own son... the dysfunctional is totally visible, whereas in the novel it is hidden in the English "society" of the day... makes the lovers feel like "victims". IN this version, they are not victims, in that they create their own hell, because of their impulsive and obsessive natures. And they all share this quality.
All in all, the acting in this film is actually very good. The film creates some serious acting moments that are indeed difficult at any stage, and these tend to force actors to get tight and better. And here they are better. They are not showy and lit for romantic appeal.... they just are, like you and I might be. In this sense alone, this film is far superior to the better known Olivier vehicle. I suppose that a modern film maker would make a film interpretation that Heathcliff either has aids, or is gay.... a modern twist.
Intelectually, this is a very nice film. For audiences searching for a Hollywood excitement film, this is trash of the Ed Wood variety. Sadly so. It's just a shame that this film, and Bunuel's own Robinson Crusoe are not given a better look. Both of these films stand out, not because of the usually surrealistic nature of this film maker, but in this case, because of his ability to create excellent stories and tie them up in a literary way, that even Emily Bronte could not.
Very good film, although it shows some age. Could use some restoring to save it along with so many other films by this master.
In short this is Wuthering Heights the Spanish way.
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