Monday, 30 July 2012

Wuthering Heights

Burning passion, gothic shiver, emotional force, idyllic but bare grassland: those are the images that strike your mind when we think of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Of the three sisters, Emily Brontë used to be the proud, reserved and independent character whose only novel dating from 1847 would become known worldwide. What was originally a novel with a high degree of emotional force and a sophisticated narrative is now turned into a rough story of blind love and blind revenge. Andrea Arnold’s adaptation contains little dialogue, almost no music but instead reveals intense images of the Yorkshire Moors, which makes us feel cold from the inside.
The basic story lines are kept the same: Catherine Earnshaw, daughter of a respectable and ancient standing family, is to be confronted with her disastrous fate when her father accommodates an orphan boy from Liverpool, who is given the unchristian name of Heathcliff. They grow op together and fall in love as teenagers until Catherine’s strategic marriage to Edgar Linton and Heathcliff’s mistreatment at the hand of her brother Hindley fill Heathcliff with an enormous passion for revenge. The effect of this revenge, which was Brontë’s sequel, is hidden in this film adaptation. Nevertheless, Heathcliff’s eyes and emotions give away what he aspires after Catherine’s death. Moreover, the movie contains several images of the young couple roaming the moors in seemingly indissociable union – an aspect that pulls in the commemoration of Brontë’s original romantic novel. However, the average images are not always as sweet as one might expect after reading the novel. The house of the Earnshaws, with little comfort except for the heat of a big fire, is represented the same way, only covered with gloom and despair. Arnolds’s naturalistic style and numerous close-ups reveal a melancholic and depressed universe. As a consequence, there’s little left of the novel’s romantic concept. Another element that deviates from the original version is the focus on Heathcliff. This was precisely what Arnold wanted since his personality is profoundly mysterious, quick tempered and not very noble. Unlike the representation of Heathcliff as a gipsy in Brontë’s novel, a black Heathcliff performs the character in the movie.

Arnold clearly has a preference for working with non-famous actors. Virtually none of the faces in the movie were ever seen on screen before. In an interview with Focus Knack, a Belgian magazine, the director confesses she prefers to work with amateurs. According to Arnold, amateurs still preserve a raw spontaneity, but as soon as they’ve acted, they are spoiled for good. Nevertheless, the entire cast proved to be professional to work with, so we may conclude that their latent talent for acting is certainly discovered now.

Yes, Andrea Arnold reaches ‘wild heights’ with her masterpiece. However, Brontë’s over romantic love story with the yearning for unity as pointed out in Catherine’s line “Nelly, I am Heathcliff”, is no longer. Nevertheless, Arnold proved with this adaptation that her naturalistic and gothic style very well match Brontë’s tormented universe: a clash between social classes, broken families as well as love and revenge under extreme circumstances. Do not expect extensive dialogue or tragic music who fits their state of mind, but that does not impede the strong emotional impact of the story. If there’s one version that is most engrossed in the personality of its doomed characters, then it certainly is Arnold’s adaptation. All things considered, we may regard Wuthering Heights as rough, yet poetic and compelling. 

-I lingered round them and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth-

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