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Directed by: Andrea Arnold

Produced: 2011

Countries & Regions: United Kingdom

DVD Details

Certificate: 15

Length: 127 mins

Format: DVD

Region: Region 2

Released: 26 March 2012

Cat No: ART582DVD

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Languages(s): English
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Wuthering Heights

Cast: Oliver Milburn , Steve Evets , Kaya Scodelario , Nichola Burley , Paul Murphy , Paul Hilton , James Howson , Amy Wren , James Northcote , Simone Jackson , Jonny Powell , Lee Shaw , Solomon Glave , Shannon Beer

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Andrea Arnold (’Red Road’, ’Fish Tank’) directs this gritty, pared-down version of Emily Brontë’s classic Gothic novel. Heathcliff... Read More

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Andrea Arnold (’Red Road’, ’Fish Tank’) directs this gritty, pared-down version of Emily Brontë’s classic Gothic novel. Heathcliff (Solomon Glave/James Howson), a runaway slave boy, is brought back to the Earnshaws’ isolated, wind-blown moorland farm from the streets of Liverpool. Brought up together in this unforgiving landscape, Heathcliff and his adoptive sister, Cathy (Shannon Beer/Kaya Scoledario), become attached to one another on a primitive and instinctual level that transcends the bond of sibling or lover. When Cathy is reluctantly married off to insipid local landowner Edgar Linton (James Northcote), Heathcliff is cruelly abused and later thrown out by his brutish adoptive brother, Hindley (Lee Shaw). He eventually returns rich, embittered and still craving his beloved Cathy.

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.

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