This adaptation of "Wuthering Heights" by Andrea Arnold follows similar plot lines as the classic by Emily Brontë but diverges from standard movie trappings. Gone is the romantic sighing and cooing from retellings such as the 1939 Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier epic. Arnold replaces the love story of Heathcliff and Cathy with a tale of refuge from alienation and raw hunger for retribution.
The actors who portray Heathcliff (James Howson, and Solomon Glave) are Black. This should be a shock to few as Brontë wrote her hero to be of unknown ethnicity and origin. Rather than focus on race, Arnold chose to examine more thoughtful issues like class, and the loss of innocence. Our unrequited lovers are drawn together by mutual alienation from society. This pair would have been rejected based on their recklessness and inequality of station regardless of their races.
Graphic images of death and the overwhelming silence of the film permeate the experience of the viewer. This is a superbly acted and written film but its emotional and physical violence may sway the more sensitive viewer. The actors rarely speak in the first half of the movie and the sounds we do hear are of natural origin: rain, birds, dog barks. There is no soundtrack. Death accompanies the actors like a silent partner in all of their actions. There were no animals harmed in the making of this film but the raw fantasy of the movie makes it hard to believe.
Extras include a video essay with film critic David Frear of "Time Out New York." It features his voice dubbed over photos from the movie. It’s a bit tedious to watch (like a taped PowerPoint slide) but his analysis is spot on. The original trailer is included as well.
a film by Andrea Arnold