Thursday 1 June 2023

'Emily' and Top Withens

For a special reason, I viewed Frances O’Connor’s film ‘Emily’ not once but three times. It was inevitable that I should see this movie. I first read Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights more than half a century ago. But it wasn’t until 53 years after reading the book that I visited Haworth for the first time. 

Jean de Wolf with his model of Top Withens

Fascinated by Emily’s novel, I wanted to see the place where she had lived and see with own eyes the important places of the story. Since that moment, a closer connection exists between that novel, the author, that place and myself. And in addition to all that, now comes Frances O’Connor’s film. 

From the first moment the film was launched in theatres, chins were wagging about “the love affair” between Emily and the curate William Weightman. I suppose this came mainly from the “long-term Brontë fans” for whom it is excused; they apparently could not accept that in this movie Emily could have had some feelings for this young, good-looking curate. 

I’m not saying whether it was or wasn’t factual, but in my opinion both scenarios are possible. Although, as far as I know, nothing is proven, in a period where certain things by preference were hidden or hushed up, it could be that Emily had some feelings of love. Even if these didn’t really lead to the situation as taken up in the movie, these feelings were perhaps used in her novel. 

In watching the scenes unfold in O’Connor’s film, it was so nice to recognize some local places, some interiors giving a picture how they lived in the 1840s, the region with its moors, locales and names taken out of the novel, like shots of the “curiosity shop” with the Haworth church and Main Street in the background; the Linton family with the dogs; the landscape with some special pictures of the roofs evoking in our minds the homestead Top Withens (later in Emily’s mind Wuthering Heights). 

All this and much more is shown to us in a fascinating way and with gorgeous images. The film also made me think about the character of Emily and her way of living in the family, which was captured well in the movie. Overall, the cast did a beautiful job and all together made a wonderful movie that at no time bored. The whole experience let the viewer go home with the thought: "Well done to Emily. And Wuthering Heights -- I have to take it up again.” 

I saw the film three times, due to a very special reason. 

Soon after the launching of the film in the U.K., the U.S. and Canada, I asked the local cinema in Dendermonde whether they too would present the movie. I showed the manager some pictures of a scale model I was making of Top Withens and told him how it was the farmhouse associated with Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. He was fascinated and asked me to show the model in the cinema, if the film was approved for distribution in Belgium. 

And so it happened that the movie came to Belgium and he took it up on his programme and contacted me for the presentation of my model. In the announcement to the public about the movie, the theatre added a special section saying “Mr. Jean De Wolf will show his model of the farm Wuthering Heights at the entrance of the room.” So for two nights in April, I showed my model and gave a little explanation concerning the Top Withens farm and Wuthering Heights. And so I took the opportunity to watch and enjoy again this beautiful movie.

  Jean de Wolf 

No comments: