Full disclosure: I kind of loathe the book “Wuthering Heights.” Emily Bronte’s masterwork always read to me like horrible people doing horrible things to each other and to everyone else. But perhaps because of the fact that I’m not a fan of the original source material, I’m always eager to check out every new film adaptation that comes along in hopes that one will make me believe or even care about the love story of Cathy and Heathcliff. I like the 1939 version with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon, but it also completely eliminates the second half of the book (i.e., the bulk of the “doing horrible things to everyone else” part of the story). The 2009 miniseries came out just months before “Inception,” so it was really only memorable as the first thing I ever saw Tom Hardy in. So no adaptation had ever really made me sympathize with Cathy and Heathcliff’s story until I recently saw Andrea Arnold’s new film, which opens today in Austin at the Regal Arbor.
Arnold is no stranger to crafting slow-burn stories of people done wrong and people doing wrong (her 2009 effort “Fish Tank”, starring Michael Fassbender, is well worth a watch on Netflix Instant), and she turns the tables in her retelling of “Wuthering Heights” so that it becomes wholly Heathcliff’s story, which I think is the film’s greatest strength. With the narrative unfolding from Heathcliff’s perspective, we better identify with him from the start and from there see firsthand how he falls in love with Cathy and the abuse he endures at Hindley’s hands, making for a much more satisfying and emotional story than I feel like any prior adaptation or even the book has provided.
Aside from Kaya Scodelario (best known as Effy from the second generation of “Skins” kids) as the older Cathy, the film stars unknown actors in the lead roles, and those three actors, Shannon Beer as young Cathy, Solomon Glave as young Heathcliff and particularly James Howson as older Heathcliff, were great casting finds. As in her earlier work, Arnold relies heavily on the visual, and it works well here, showing Wuthering Heights for what it is — a working farm that’s isolated, dirty and neglected — and making those famous moors seem like the most wonderful and desperate place of escape.
Check out the trailer:
Are you a fan of the book or any of the other adaptations? Do you plan on checking out the new film?