Saturday, 19 November 2011

Wuthering Heights, dir. Andrea Arnold, wr. Andrea Arnold, Olivia Hetreed, based on the novel by Emily Brontë, st. Kaya Scodelario, James Howson

Arnold is nothing if not an extraordinary sensory director. Shot on the North Yorkshire moors, windswept heather and bracken, nebulous drizzle and glacial dawn mists are captured and presented with a level of immersion unmatched by the latest 3D nonsense. Like another famous literary twosome sharing auditoriums this week, extreme angst is the order of the day, the difference being that Heathcliff and Cathy's relationship comes burdened with issues of social standing, class, race (in Arnold's version) and jealousy. That and the fact Heathcliff doesn't sparkle in the sunlight. In fact sunlight is the only meteorological phenomenon absent from the film, any semblance of joy or happiness supplanted by confounded misery and despondency at every turn, highlighted by cinematographer Robbie Ryan's chilly mornings over bleak landscapes or blustery rocky capes overlooking wintry dusks. With barely a handful of pages of dialogue to convey the narrative, much of the story is told in vignetted action and the oft-pained expressions of the leads. Solomon Glave as the Young Heathcliff segues neatly into Howson's mature portrayal, Scoledario fares less well at taking over from Shannon Beer's sure-footed performance, but both couples convince well enough and the result is an affectingly tactile slice of scholarly miserablism.