chapter  2
15 Pages

DISMEMBERING DEVILS The demonology of Arashi ga oka (1988) and Wuthering Heights (1939)

In this chapter I want to examine Yoshishige Yoshida's 1988 film of Wuthering Heights (Arashi ga oka) and its relationship to the 1939 American version. The goal is not to produce a comparative analysis; such an approach can rapidly degenerate into a mere list of differences or similarities. Furthermore, I do not want to compare the film adaptations to the 'original' novel. The question of whether the Japanese or the Americans can do 'justice' to the orthodox Anglo-American literary establishment's assessment of Emily Bronte's book reinforces essentialist beliefs in the purity of the central text. It also establishes a critical hegemony in which foreign adaptations are forced to assume the position of helpless ignorance in the face of more 'accurate' British readings. In this hierarchy Japanese versions are, at the very least, hampered by the fact that they must either portray nineteenth-century Y orkshire people speaking Japanese or change the setting. Even the Americans have problems: since the book is traditionally thought of as a part-hymn to the wild moors above Haworth, the sight of a huge cardboard mountain masquerading as the Nab can appear ridiculous. Yet, as this last example shows, even orthodox interpretations of the book rapidly become entangled in their own myths. Popular images of Cathy and Heathcliff running towards each other across a stunning, Romantic heath have no equivalent in the novel or any of the films and if Wuthering Heights is a novel of landscape then there are very few references to the natural features of Yorkshire. Instead, I want to look at the Japanese film as a particular reading of both the novel and the American movie from the viewpoint of the Japanese avant-garde.