The Thinking Machine 3

Always a Window

Adrian Martin and Cristina Álvarez López reflect on the art of filmmaking in monthly video essays. This month: Luis Buñuel’s Abismos de pasión.

How do motifs work in cinema? Something (a word, an object, a shape, a colour, a musical theme) is repeated, underlined, invested with meaning until it forms a recognisable pattern or system. In Luis Buñuel’s remarkable adaptation of Wuthering Heights as Abismos de pasión (1953), the window becomes a key motif, variously associated with longing, spying, and the very threshold of civilised values. But windows can also be smashed, and so the motif is transformed, taken to another level – to the highest heights or (in Buñuel’s inversion) the lowest abismos.