Monday, 11 June 2012


If Joe Wright's 2005 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice was the so-called "muddy hem" version of Jane Austen, then Andrea Arnold's take on Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights could very well be called "down and dirty".

Not in a sexual sense -- there's very little in the way of eroticism -- but in the film's setting and exposure to the elements. Fully immersed in the cold, wind and rain of the Yorkshire moors, I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that members of cast and crew came down with pneumonia (perhaps making it a perfect fit for this year's SFF weather).

Sadly, Arnold's strong evocation of place and the elements doesn't extend to the love story between Heathcliff and Cathy. First depicted as youths (by newcomers Soloman Glave and Shannon Beer, respectively), then as adults (James Howson and Kaya Scodelario), the relationship between the (white) farmer's daughter and the (black) boy adopted by Cathy's Christian father, never really ignites; Arnold preferring to focus on the tragic aspects of Bronte's novel (which I confess I've never read) rather than the romantic.

This may have been more effective (and affecting) had the director spent less time on the youthful leads and more time with the adults, when Heathcliff returns to Wuthering Heights to find Cathy unhappily married and with child.

Indeed, at 128 minutes Wuthering Heights is far too long: an epic novel it may well be, but like so many filmmakers today, Arnold confuses running time for importance and "epic-ness".

Still, one can admire Arnold's bravery in taking a much-loved literary classic and eschewing all of the expected staples of the period (bonnet) drama. The absence of a score is also a bold move, and the film is beautifully, though darkly shot by Robbie Ryan, and in 1.33:1 (perhaps to resemble a book?).

Wuthering Heights (Paramount-Transmission Films) will be released in Australia October 11.

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