Magazine article The Spectator

Bleak and Bold

Magazine article The Spectator

Bleak and Bold

Article excerpt

Wuthering Heights

15, Nationwide

As a major admirer of all writer/director Andrea Arnold's previous work - Wasp, Red Road, Fish Tank - I was looking forward to her version of Wuthering Heights more than I can say, and? Wow! Or, at least, mostly 'wow!' It is a 'wow' with a few reservations. It is two thirds of a 'wow', so perhaps a 'wo!'? Wo! It is impressively bold.

And brave. And brutish. It will rile the purists, which is always good, as riling purists is a particular hobby of mine, and I like to set aside at least half a day a week to do just that. (I favour putting them in a cage, and poking them with sticks every now and then. ) Yet it is also so glacial it freezes you out and James Howson, the newcomer who plays Heathcliff in his adult years, may not be up to the job; he just sort of grunts oikishly, as if he were serving you in PC World or Comet. This is why it's a 'wo', not a 'wow', although don't be downhearted: a 'wo' is always the next best thing.

Ms Arnold has dispensed with a narrator and has opted to tell the story entirely from Heathcliff's point of view, as is within her rights. There is no law against it, as far as I know. The film begins with the adult Heathcliff - portrayed as black, for the first time - alone in a room, smacking his own bloodied head against a stone wall, signifying all the grief and hatred and violence he's already experienced. Time then spools back to Heathcliff as a boy (Solomon Glave) arriving at Wuthering Heights with Mr Earnshaw (Paul Hilton) across the moor, in the dark and the rain, having been plucked as a runaway from the streets of Liverpool.

There is no musical score. Instead, the elements provide the soundtrack. The wind howls. Branches snap. Gorse cracks. Windowpanes rattle. Rain thuds. Mud splatters.

Ms Arnold also uses only hand-held cameras, which gives everything a fantastically raw, splintering feel. This is certainly a film of sensation and as a film of sensation it is a beautiful and triumphant and magnificent beast. But, I should add, it may be sensation at the expense of story. It is often dramatically inert; can seem more like a succession of bleak, brutal photographs than a narrative with momentum and, although this may have been Ms Arnold's intention, it does get a little repetitious. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.