Saturday, April 6, 2013

Wuthering Heights (dir Andrea Arnold, 2011)

Blimey, you go for 45 years without seeing an Andrea Arnold film and then two come along at once!  We watched her rendition of Wuthering Heights (made in 2011) a couple of nights again and I am still feel rather haunted by it.

The film concentrates on the first half of the Bronte book and particularly the childhood bonds between Cathy and Heathcliff.  The cinematography is stunning and really captures the sights and sounds of the moors, as well as the primal passion felt by Cathy and Heathcliff as they run wild together.  Arnold uses muted colours and diegetic sound brilliantly.  We hear the deafening winds and rain of the moorland, dogs snarling, animals eating loudly and Cathy singing by a crackling fire.  Some scenes are shot POV to show, with intensity, how Heathcliff sees Cathy.  Lots of use of the darkness and not quite being able to make out what we are looking at.  Minimal dialogue.

As in Red Road, Arnold uses inexperienced actors and, I think, gets some good performances.  The youngsters, Shannon Beer and Solomon Glave, don’t actually seem to be acting at all.  The older Heathcliff did not work for me at all – he just seemed too wimpy.  Using a black actor fitted well though – he always feels like an outsider and this allows the narrative to develop convincingly.  The older Cathy played by Kaya Scodelaria looked nothing like Beer and I found this break in continuity to be jarring. 

This film is not at all what one would expect of a “costume drama” and was a brave and artistic approach to a well-known and beloved story.   For me, it went downhill when the older Heathcliff returned but there are still some superb moments and everything is beautifully filmed.  The scenery and portrayal of childhood and young love was very evocative and powerful and, as I mentioned at the start, quite haunting.

  • Lots of feathers (very sensual) and birds.  Is watching the birds and the skies an analogy for his aspirations?  He wants to escape and move up in life but he is grounded by his feelings for Cathy
  • Great close-ups of moths against the window. Some pretty stomach-churning images of dead rabbits and fowl.  Very earthy portrayal – in fact, literally there is some frolicking in mud
  • The camera focuses on tall grasses and then tunes into the forms of people standing beyond.  A visually appealing effect used more than once in this film.
  • Continuity created via seeing Heathcliff closing his eyes in one scene and then opening them in another.
  • We see Heathcliff lifting a trunk off the back of the cart and then a coffin, seemingly of similar size and at the same orientation, going into a grave.
  • Lovely shots of wall scratches and graffiti in candle light 
  • Heathcliff watching Cathy at Thrushcross Grange through the window to stress the different lives they are now leading
  • Robbie Ryan was the Director of Photography (as for Red Road) 
  • Lots of use of hand-held camera and intimate close-ups to create a sense of the tensions
  • Why the choice of 4:3 aspect ratio when the scenery would seem to be very widescreen? 
  • Mumford and Sons song at the end – beautiful but seemed out of place

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