Viewing Wuthering Heights filled me with an overwhelming envy — envy for all the lucky bastards who were able to walk out of the theater midway through and didn’t have to finish the movie. Lest you think this is simply a figure of speech, I took the trouble to count them as they left. Less than 50 percent of the audience remained for the duration of the film. Why? You may ask. Because director Andrea Arnold managed to include the tedious and disturbing aspects of the novel while eradicating the passion and haunting beauty that makes it worthwhile.
What makes Wuthering Heights (the book) beautiful? The answer lies in quotes such as: “He is more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same. If all else perished and he remained, I should still continue to be, and if all else remained, and we were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger … He’s always, always in my mind; not as a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.” Or scenes like Heathcliff leaning out the window to call to the ghost of Cathy as the tree branch taps on the window. Arnold takes these beautiful moments and destroys them. Cathy begins the quote above, but her voice fades out and if you had never read the book you wouldn’t have the faintest idea of what she was saying. The tree branch taps from the beginning, long before Cathy’s death, ruining the final effect and making it unnecessary and confusing.
Wuthering Heights is the story of a dark unnatural passion that transcends time and the plane of existence. Catherine Earnshaw (Shannon Beer and Kaya Scodelario) and Heathcliff (Solomon Glave and James Howson) are the authors of this passion — they destroy the lives of those around them in their quest to possess each other and wreak vengeance upon themselves. This interpretation degrades this into a creepy obsession — an animalistic horror. This revulsion within the relationship is mirrored through the continual slaughtering of animals. Though an attempt at a metaphor, these killings are taken too far: sheep are bled out, dogs are hung and rabbits are clobbered.
The first hour and a half of the film is tedium and debasement. Their home is no Wuthering Heights; it is a dirty farm without sophistication or class. The entire film was minimalistic. There is no soundtrack and hardly any dialogue. While this captures the underlying feel of the novel, it is boring. Nothing happens — it is dark, people lick blood, the wind blows. While the director may have been striving for superior shots and powerful emotions, what she produces is instead a dull film shrouded in darkness.
Arnold tries too hard to incorporate metaphors into the film. As a result, if I see another bird or feather I may scream. It is one thing to subtly lace a beautiful metaphor through a movie and let it speak to the audience as it will. It is another thing entirely to constantly thrust it in our faces: LOOK AT THIS BIRD! LOOK AT THE FEATHER FALLING! THIS IS IMPORTANT! ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!
The novel, though a story of unlikable characters and innate aversion, ends on a redeeming note. The children of the wrongdoers seem to rectify the crimes of their parents and leave the audience with characters who have the potential to do right and with a feeling of the hope of tomorrow. This film does no such thing. In fact, one of the final images of the film is of necrophilia. The screenplay writers (Andrea Arnold and Olivia Hetreed) seem to want their audience leaving with feelings of revulsion and hopelessness. Though I cannot speak for her, I don’t think this is exactly what Emily Brontë was going for when she wrote the novel.
I don’t want to be disparaging about the actors — they were actually quite good. The attempt at a revolution of the film incorporating a black Heathcliff was an interesting take and the themes were not completely out of place. The revised view and decent performances were not enough to save the film, however. I spent my time in the theater guessing who would walk out next. By the time the film looked like it could possibly redeem itself, there were only five people left in the theater and it had gone too far to save anything. Whenever things started to look possibly interesting, more death, tedium and all around creepiness overpowered.
Whether you’ve read the book or not, don’t see this movie. When I first read the book I was repulsed but I adored the hauntingly beautiful overlay and could neither hate nor forget it. After seeing the movie my only thoughts were that I needed to take a few showers and watch How I Met Your Mother until I could forget everything that I had just seen.
Original Author: Marissa Tranquilli