Film - Wuthering Heights - directed by Andrea Arnold
Star rating – 6/10
I have to admit from the off to being a very big fan of both the Emily Brontë novel on which this film is based (it’s actually one of my favourite all time books); and to being a great admirer of director Andrea Arnold. Her previous two films, ‘Red Road’ and ‘Fish Tank’ are stupendously good gritty urban contemporary pieces. So this venture into the realms of classic literature and costume drama in the wilds of West Yorkshire is unfamiliar territory for her.
And sadly I’ve got to say that I don’t think she pulls it off. Arnold doesn’t attempt to tell the whole of the book here, as indeed neither did the famous black and white classic Olivier movie of the same name. She leaves out the time after Cathy’s death and the slow descent into hell that Heathcliff both endures for himself, and inflicts on those accursed beings left around him. The magnificent novel is wild, broody, passionate, and a complete enigma in terms of being the product of a young girls’ imagination that was entirely out of the realms of her own personal limited life experience.
The book works because of the all pervading love-hate relationship that Cathy and Heathcliff develop from being children. And in the first part of this film, the young actors Solomon Glave and Shannon Beer play the parts brilliantly and create the kind of tension in their relationship that the book also generates. He is brought back from Liverpool to the wild moors by her father, a child abandoned in the streets who now has to face another very different but equally harsh reality in many ways. Cathy and he love nothing more than to roam the moors and get down and dirty, in a very innocent sense. They are feral and untamed and they don’t care. And the landscape that Arnold captures is truly magnificent and breathtaking – as it should be.
But half way through the film the actors playing the lead roles change into adults, which is a bit confusing as none of the other actors around them change. The transition into James Howson and Kaya Scodelario is clumsily handled, including heavily signposted flashbacks to their early incarnations which seem a bit unnecessary. The chemistry seems lost and the spell broken somewhat.
This is a very stripped down version of Wuthering Heights, with long silences in the first half of the film, and no sound track at all – a fact that is brought home when the final credits roll and finally some music plays. The wild winds are left to speak for themselves. It’s a shame because I wanted to love it. But I just didn’t. And be warned, although there is a note in the credits to say that no animals were harmed in its making, there are some very brutal scenes of animal cruelty involved.