Wuthering Heights DVD
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Directed by Andrea Arnold
Produced in 2011
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
Mike McCahill applauds this immersive, intensely atmospheric adaptation from Emily Brontë which overthrows British cinema's usual tyranny of literalism and brings fresh air to the screen.
To the formidable menagerie laid out in Andrea Arnold's shorts Dog and Wasp, and 2009's feature Fish Tank, her quietly radical Wuthering Heights adds more canines, a carthorse, a plucked goose, a full complement of beetles and bugs, and a pair of lapwings whose skylarking comes to rhyme with Heathcliff and Cathy’s own. Arnold’s elemental take on Emily Brontë is never happier than when out on the moors, liberated from the constraints of polite society’s costume dramas, able to observe or feel whatever it wants. It's a free adaptation, in more ways than one.
With screenwriter Olivia Hetreed, Arnold rethinks the book from the turf up. The director’s outsider status gives her a renewed insight into Heathcliff's exile; it’s also perhaps why her exteriors provide such glorious release. Concerted effort has been made to visualise what these characters' lives might be like between the lines. When Heathcliff builds a wall, it's both an evocative period detail and the better to understand what any labourer might want to come home to at day's end.
This version is more alert than its predecessors to race and class, though the casting of a black Heathcliff really shouldn’t be a big deal in 2012. And while the earthy language may alarm Brontë purists, the abiding sensuality shouldn't be anathema. All Arnold has done is to remove this tale of the billowing shirts and curtains it has accrued; it's still romantic, but in a newly grounded fashion. James Howson's Heathcliff kisses Nichola Burley's Isabella in a manner familiar from youth clubs through the ages.
Yet the whole isn't so much in-your-face as all around you: an immersive, intensely atmospheric fog of a film. After her none-more-urban Red Road and Fish Tank, Arnold adapts surprisingly well to the rhythms of the moors, leaving in stretches of silence that allow the viewer time to breathe, inhabit this world, and revel in Robbie Ryan’s dewy cinematography. Consider it a sister to Lynne Ramsay's We Need to Talk About Kevin: yet again it takes a female director to overthrow the British cinema's usual tyranny of literalism, and bring fresh air to the screen.
Mike McCahill on 20th February 2012
Author of 322 reviews
Wuthering Heights - Andrea Arnold's raw adaptation of Emily Brontë’s classic of romantic literature, avoids a conventional approach to period drama, but remains faithful to the characters of Heathcliff and Cathy. It is certainly divisive; many have claimed it as a masterpiece.
Strikingly and beautifully photographed (in 4:3 Academy ratio) by Robbie Ryan, this is a film whose characters (played by a mainly non-professional cast) inhabit an evocatively harsh and forbidding landscape of mud and mist.
A Yorkshire hill farmer on a visit to Liverpool finds a homeless boy on the streets. He takes him home to live as part of his family on the isolated Yorkshire moors where the boy forges an obsessive relationship with the farmer's daughter.
Publisher: Artificial Eye
Length: 127 mins
Format: DVD Colour
Released: 26th March 2012
Cat No: ART582DVD