Prior to its theatrical release, this latest Charlotte Bronte adaptation screened at MIFF and Bec Butterworth reports
Suckers for period dramas and adaptations, like me, have their favourites. Wuthering Heights is one of mine. Charlotte Bronteâ��s masterpiece is either one that sucks you in
or bores you to death, and it bores you to death if you donâ��t like scenery. Bronte made the English moors (swampy, wind-blown hills) a character in her book, describing the home of Heathcliff (James Howson, Solomon Glave) and Cathy Earnshaw (Shannon Beer, Kaya Scodelario) as bleak, â��billowy white oceanâ��, wild and unforgiving. Filmmaker Andrea Arnold (Red Road, Fish Tank) has been true to the character of the moors, and her dedication to the visceral has made this film a visual dream. The camera goes to the smallest, most oblique details that nature has to offer, and then pans out to the wide angle, almost from the perspective of the ghosts that are watching Cathy and Heathcliffâ��s dangerous love dance long before either (spoiler alert) are dead. And Arnold has taken other decisions in the film that make it unique. The film is a little over two hours long, and yet half of the story had been truncated.
Wuthering Heights contains two love stories, one for Cathy and Heathcliff, the other, the continuing story that satisfies the pining reader. Arnoldâ��s decision to cut out the half for the reader allows her to focus in on the detail, as she does. The camera becomes the narrator where before it was a character, making the story sparer still.
Itâ��s a lot of detail to take in. But itâ��s beautiful enough not to be overwhelming. Appropriately, the film won best cinematography (Robbie Ryan) at the Venice Film Festival. And the other great thing is that, like the 1992 version starring Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche, the film involves threads of spit dangling from one lover to the other. The spit makes it more real.
One viewer sighed in protest as the end credits rolled, lifting her arse of the seat and saying, â��Well, I loved that about as much as I loved the book,â�� the sarcasm dripping from her mouth like Heathcliff spittle. And I have to say, I agree: I liked it almost as much as I liked the book, too.