Venice 2011 Review: Andrea Arnold's WUTHERING HEIGHTS

If you have read Wuthering Heights and you liked it, then you will enjoy this version. If you are not a fan of impossible love stories and films with lots of silence, then you may want to stay away from this.

rating: 3

Based on the famous Gothic and only novel written by Emily Bronte over 160 years ago, WutheringHeights is surprising subject matter for Andrea Arnold's third feature. Arnold broke onto the scene with the contemporary drama Red Road and her impressive follow-up Fish Tank that became an Awards darling, neither films which suggested a much adapted and somewhat stuffy literary novel would make her third feature. But here we are at the Venice Film Festival where Wuthering Heights has premiered and it's somewhat successful at changing up the standard Bronte adaptation formula. The most obvious change to the story is obvious with Arnold decidedly casting a black actor, newcomer James Howson into the lead role of Heathcliffe, the first time a non-white has ever played the role on screen. Plus, the film is shot using only handheld cameras giving the feeling of being closer to the story as if we were silent witnesses to the drama, or following the events of a documentary. This is an artistic and urgent way of telling the story and immediately it feels fresh. This isn't the Wuthering Heights we have been fed with for decades. The impressive setting and costume design immediately takes us back to the late 1800's where the story takes place. The beautiful but deserted landscape of England becomes a silent observer of the human tragedy that takes place. One night Mr. Earnshaw (Paul Hilton) finds a young black boy wandering by himself in the rain and decides to follows his Christian spirit and take him into his family. His older son Hindley doesn't approve his father's decision and immediately dislikes the young man, while the younger daughter, Catherine, after an initial moment of resistance, falls for the boy. The young boy gets baptized with the name of Heathcliff. He soon falls for what would be his foster sister, Cathy. Things change drastically when Mr. Earnshaw dies and the head of the house becomes Hindley who forces Heathcliff to become a servant. The young Heathcliff, played by James Howson, struggles trying to resist the urge of fighting Hindley in order not to compromise his situation in the house. There's a sense of solitude that can be seen in the young boy's eyes. The atmosphere of the film is gloomy, as those rainy days in England, making it a perfect setting for this impossible love story. In this family drama everyone is very human, they are all just trying to survive doing what they believe is right, and in the end there is really no character that we could call a hero and no real antagonist, as they all have flaws, they all make mistakes and they all do their best to protect the things they love. Catherine is the center of all attention both from her protective brother and from Heathcliff, when a third man comes claiming her heart. Kaya Scodelario plays a charming Catherine who does her best to abide by the rules but who also wants to follow her heart, and is beautiful to watch the way she treats Heathcliff, the way she looks at him. Overall the latest Wuthering Heights is very well made, even though for some people it may be be a little boring as the story spans through many years and there are many moments of absolutely no music or dialogue and some long scenes where not a lot happens. But I guess that is the novel and if you have read Wuthering Heights and you liked it, then you will enjoy this version. If you are not a fan of impossible love stories and films with lots of silence, then you may want to stay away from this. Wuthering Heights is released in the U.K. on November 11th. U.S. date is as yet uncertain.
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Andrea Pasquettin hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.