Last week I posted the first installment in my Wuthering Heights 2017 series: my interview with Shao'ri Morris, the actress starring as Catherine Earnshaw in the upcoming movie. Today I've got not one but two absolute exclusive features: the fist trailer and an interview with director and screenplay writer, Nina Elisaveta Abhrahall. She kindly answered all my questions, even the most insidious ones, with generosity and open-mindedness. You know, I even dared ask whether we truly needed a new version of Emily Bronte's novel after so many had been already made. I think she has a point there! Discover more reading through the interview and enjoy the trailer at the end of the post! By the way, my next interview is with Heathcliff, that is Paul Eryk Atlas. Stay tuned!
First of all, welcome to FLY HIGH! and thank you so much, Elizaveta! Before I start with my questions would you mind telling the readers something about you?
Hi, well I have worked as an actress, writer and Director for the majority of my adult life, I live in Herefordshire and have always loved the classics. As I've got older I've become more keen to see projects through from inception to finish myself, rather than working on other people's projects and wuthering Heights is the culminaiton of two years writing and two years pre produciton so far. By the time it completes it will have been a five year project from start to end.
The first questions that comes to my mind is … Why of all the classics you decided to adapt Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights?
It was the first adult book that I read as quite a young child that I really related to. I read it first probably when I was 6 or 7 and as we lived miles from anywhere I was quite a lonely child and spent a lot of time feeling quite kindred to Catherine. As I got older I began to see different facets of the novel until finally I realised exactly how much it has going on with it that is rarely touched upon, so it's been an important book to me my whole life.
Since there have been several adaptations of Wuthering Heights both for the big and the small screens, what is it that you felt the need to say that those versions didn’t?
I have nothing against ny of the previous versions of Wuthering Heights, they all in their own ways have a great deal of meit, but most of them are not actually Wuthering Heights, they are adaptations of only part of the story and sometimes they are so contrived and mixed up and that the essence of the story is lost entirely. This on the other hand follows the book quite closely by comparison. It does include things not included in the book, but which were likely as well as some fan theories which were stringly implied or hinted at in the novel, but this is going to be the first retelling of all major parts and generations involved in the story, so I hope that alone gives it some merit.
Personally, I love to compare the book to its adaptations and even the different adaptations between them. But, you know, many believe that “the book is always better than the movie”. What’s your opinion as a reader/viewer?
I do by and large tend to agree. It's impossible to convey all of the tiny nuances which are present in books, and it's important when we watch a film to understand that if we tried to include them all, it would be slow ands dry and boring, and very very very long! Even versus my own adaptation I doubt I will ever prefer anything to the book as you can disappear into that world for days as you read it, whereas any film is only a few hours.
Can you tell us what you especially like of Cathy?
Cathy is this primal force, she has this wild woman energy and doesn't care who or what she offends. I think in this world where we all have to conform and mind our manners a lot, it would be very freeing to have her sense of emancipation. Whenever you imagine a heroine it's always something fierce and wild and for me Cathy is the embodiment of that.
And what about Heathcliff?
In our fantasies we all want a Heathcliff, a tall, dark, exotic someone who will love with a passion so fierce it's terrifying and who will mourn himself to death on our demise over 20 years. In reality a Heathcliff would be a petrifying psychopath who would be best avoided, but in the book, I really like him because as a youth is he full of strength and surety and towards the end of his life, he is just really fed up, disappointed and worn down and I think we can all relate to that too. He's the human failing in all of us.
Do you reckon contemporary readers/viewers can still relate to those 19th century lovers? How’s that possible?
Yes. Human nature never changes. There are soulmates then, now and always. If we are lucky we find them ourselves and if not then we get to watch others blaze brightly but that will never change, love is a constant necessary for our very existance.
Being the screenwriter as well as the director of this movie, which was the hardest tasks you had to face in both roles?
To be honest doing both made the job a whole lot easier. As I wrote I saw the movie in my head which made the logistics of location, costume and casting very simple indeed. Once I had cast it to my satisfaction, I'm happy to say that as we all lived together at my house as a 'Wuthering Heights Family' it was very easy to convey what I wanted to the cast, especially Sah'ori and Paul who I worked with very closely. It because so second nature to everyone that I barely needed to Direct anyone, they got it as I wished pretty immedietely.
Did you use Emily Bronte’s dialogues as they are, famous lines included, or did you try to semplify and modernise the language?
No I didn't modernise the language at all and for the most part used direct dialogue from the books. The noteable exceptions to that occur where I have utlised my own original characters to propel the story forward at a faster rate due to time consatraints for the finished film, such as when the servants ( non original Bronte characters) discuss their Mistress' final illness. It just makes it jog along a little faster and doesn't labour over parts of the story we need to know but which we don't actually need to see, just simply understand has taken place. Even those conversations are with language contempray to 1780 though, so it shouldn't jar on the viewer hopefully.
Do you have a favourite line/scene?
Yes and it's an important one constantly overlooked. It's actually the way Heathcliff treats and considers Isabella before their marriage. He is the only male character that gives any kudos to a woman's right to choose anything in the whole book. He says of Isabella:-
'I have a right to kiss her if SHE chooses',- ergo it is HER choice- and he always gives her a choice prior to their marriage.He shows himself in all his detestable cruelty to her in hanging her dog, and yet she still marries him. He did not decieve her, and in a backhanded way that is admirable.
If you could substitute one of your actors for one day, which character would you like to play?