Wuthering Heights goes back to Yorkshire

Review: Wuthering Heights. (15.) Directed by Andrea Arnold. Starring Kaya Scodelario, James Howson, Solomon Glave, Shannon Beer, Nichola Burley and Steve Evets. 128 mins **

Wuthering Heights (15)

Director Andrea Arnold

Starring Kaya Scodelario, James Howson, Solomon Glave, Shannon Beer, Nichola Burley and Steve Evets 128 mins


�After a couple of acclaimed original features, Andrea Arnold has taken an unusual approach to tackling her first costume drama/literary adaptation – she’s taken all the fun out of it. This is a proper bloody Yorkshire version of Heathcliff and Cathy. The wild and windy moors are also rain-drenched and mist-shrouded. The cast are unknowns or first timers. Animal cruelty and mud-splattered earthiness are accentuated. Gothic romance is muted.

It’s beautifully rendered vision, like Ken Loach meets Terence Malick. The characters appear almost embedded in that Yorkshire soil. But it is also a pinched and limited view. Over the century and a half since it was published, Emily Bronte’s book has been chipped down into a romantic melodrama. This tries to redress this but I don’t really see this being any more “true” than say the Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon’s take.

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One of the pleasures of the book is its convoluted structure, the twisted family tree, the various layers built around the central tale with the story being told second and third hand by its unreliable narrators. Arnold’s version is not unique in abandoning all of this. But her version is turned into a simple rush of present tense – a worm’s eye view of events with more hand-held shaky cam than a Blair Witch Project.

This Heathcliff doesn’t say things like “I have no pity! I have no pity! The more the worms writhe, the more I yearn to crush out their entrails!” He says things like “F**** off you c****.” Arnold has tried to transfer all the brutal poetry of the language into brutal visual poetry of the landscape but it leaves the characters so small and dull, you can’t see why anyone would get worked up about them or their stories. Only Scodelario as the adult Cathy has the screen presence to suggest a really powerful character worthy of attention. It’s dark and unique, but it isn’t any kind of Wuthering Heights.