Reviewed by Hollie Richardson
Starring: Kaya Scodelario, James Howson, Solomon Grave
Director: Andrea Arnold
Running Time: 129 minutes
Release Date: 26 March 2012
Since reading the infamous Emily Bronte novel a good few years ago, there have been many TV and film versions of Wuthering Heights brought to my attention. Andrea Arnold’s telling of the story is as raw and real as it gets. Her choice of casting a black Heathcliff caused controversy when the film debuted; cuss words are interwoven into the dialogue; and scenes of whippings and beatings may cause you to have to look away. If you prefer a romanticised telling of the story, this version is not for you. It is as far removed from the Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon version as possible.
If you’re not familiar with the story here is a quick run through. Mr Earnshaw brings an outsider child back to Wuthering Heights to live with him and his children, Catherine and Hindley. Heathcliff is treated like a common servant by his new brother who becomes head of the house once their father dies. Cathy on the other hand, quickly comes to love Heathcliff, and the two soon grow inseparable, spending their days playing on the moors. The love story becomes complicated as Cathy becomes involved with Edgar Linton in a bid to socially advance, causing Heathcliff to leave and return in later years with a new and mysterious wealth. There is a second part to the story but this does not feature in the film which is quite disappointing. Nevertheless the intense story telling is captivating. Compared to other productions there is a lot of focus on the childhood of Heathcliff and Cathy, which helps establish their strong bond.
Set and filmed in the North Yorkshire Moors, the cinematography is eerily beautiful. You really feel like you’re out there with the wind and rain blowing sharply across your face. The shaky cameras, howling winds and brilliant acting all add to making this an interesting watch. However, prepare to watch some dark, intense scenes that show Heathcliff’s dark side (I found a scene particularly hard to watch, where a poor puppy finds itself on the receiving end of Heathcliff’s anger). Although Kaya Scodelario and James Howson seem quite young to be cast as the grown up Cathy and Heathcliffe, they play their parts fantastically. As a Yorkshire girl myself I’m impressed with how well the cast pulled off the accent. Solomon Glave and Shannon Beer also have extremely promising futures in acting, as their performances playing the youngsters are first class.
I feel this is a version Bronte would be happy with. The story hasn’t been air brushed with fancy costumes, orchestral music or big Hollywood stars. It is a must watch for any Wuthering Heights fan and anyone who enjoys arty, gritty cinema. Like Marmite, it isn’t to everyone’s taste, so you will probably love it or hate it. After all, it’s not your typical love story.
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