Andrea Arnold obviously believes a picture paints a thousand words and her new version of Wuthering Heights is all style over substance.
If you don’t know the story of Wuthering Heights basically a father takes in a waif to his family. Said waif, Heathcliff, falls in love with the daughter Cathy, the son Hindley is jealous at losing his father’s affections. Bones, friendships and hearts are all broken in the ensuing two hours. This is art house Wuthering Heights and the dialogue is as scarce as hair on Hindley’s football hooligan head. Arnold shows the budding love between a young Heathcliff and Cathy with long shots of the two walking or horse riding in the moors with an emphasis being placed on the touch and feel of the environment around them.
I realise in the novel they are quite young when they fall in love but that was 1847 and as Arnold spends so much time on the young love it just doesn’t seem believable and with such little dialogue there is no weight behind the story. As the children are in their early teens some of the scenes are quite uncomfortable to watch especially the suggestion of Cathy loosing her virginity when Heathcliff and her wrestle in the mud. I felt like a concerned parent which I think shows some failing on the films part to convey the love between the two.
All the actors are perfectly adequate at giving long staring looks but any time they are required to talk, it grates and feels incredibly forced, Hindley proclaiming “What the fuck!” upon Heathcliff’s return as a gentleman of some means doesn’t quite do justice to Bronte’s prose. I remember feeling frustrated reading the novel, the sense of dread and the unrequited love nearly too much to stomach but with this new film none of those emotions were awoken.
The film is beautiful of that there is no doubt, however after two hours and ten minutes of what seems like an extended episode of Countryfile, the climax including a mild necrophilia scene left me cold. Another member of the audience too it would seem, as he was the fourth person to walk out of the screening I was at.
Andrea Arnold / Andrea Arnold, Olivia Heatreed / Starring: Kaya Scodelario, James Howson and Oliver Milburn / 129 min / Drama, Romance / Release: 11 November 2011 (UK/IRL)