Wednesday 16 November 2011


(Andrea Arnold, 2011)

All adaptations of classic novels should be so alive and so emotional as Arnold's extraordinary reading of Emily Bronte's book. Dispensing with the majority of the dialogue and instead placing the narrative and expositional weight on the imagery Arnold and her prodigiously gifted DP Robbie Ryan conjure from the bleak beauty of their Yorkshire locations, this is a visually stunning experience from start to finish.
And experience is the right word. Arnold favours dozens of close-ups and a fantastically detailed sound mix which make Wuthering Heights a startlingly sensual and visceral piece of work. Both the intense physicality of the moors, all howling winds, scratching bracken, clattering rain, fog and distant cloudbursts together with the small human sensations of life there, lived inside dark houses lit by roaring fires and trudging through mud, are vividly conveyed.
This is a film that feels almost as if it were made by the Moors themselves, so primal and brutal is its sensibility. But it is never less than thrillingly beautiful, filled with miraculous captures of fleeting nature and wonderful compositions of Arnold's many fine tableaux.
All of that is never at the expense of the characters or story. Arnold's approach highlights the simplicity and power of her purely visual storytelling, with much of the first half, in particular, told through wordless scenes of human interaction. We see the growth of the feeling between Heathcliff and Cathy in many mute scenes, much of it articulated through tone and mood. There is more dialogue and more traditional dramatic content in the second half, but Arnold keeps it poetic and elliptical, stark and heavily textured.
Her star-free cast is excellent, with the two actors playing Heathcliff in particular (Solomon Glave and James Howson) required to suggest so much buried emotion, both rage and love, through consistent passages. Howsons glare - and the fact his big dark sad eyes undermine it every time - give him the perfect effect for the hard but vulnerable creature Heathcliff has become.
But the true stars here ar Arnold herself and the locations, both of whom are wonderful.

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