TIFF 2011 Review: Wuthering Heights

Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights is going to anger a lot of people. Which is a shame, because it is brilliant. As an interpretation, not an adaptation, Arnold take a different route, exploring certain themes and characters within the text from a different perspective. And what a perspective – this is raw, gritty, melancholy and visceral in its visualisation of the landscape and the various creatures that inhabit it. Told from the perspective of Heathcliff (James Howson), the first half sees a coarse but steadfast boy and a tempestuous, stubborn girl bond in wildness as is consistent with the Yorkshire moors. Arnold does not try to falsify the land with fancy effects or swooping, meaningless camera movements. Rather, with handheld camera she moves as the characters move, running and tripping, hard and fast over an often-unforgiving place.

The houses are tight and either raw and low (in the case of the Earnshaw homestead) or too bright and pristine (at the Linton mansion). The moors mean freedom, at least for Cathy (Kaya Scodelario) and Heathcliff, and they are dragged away from them by the confines of their societal statuses. During the second half, when we meet the adult Heathcliff and Catherine, they seem ill-at-ease in their new finery, lost unless they are together among the rocks and winds. Arnold’s Heathcliff is a lost, insular boy, finding strength only in speaking his mind and the presence of Cathy. Arnold brings her incredible eye for the beauty of the lonely and the plight of the outcast to this interpretation, and it should be praised.

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