Review: Wuthering Heights (2011)


Director: Andrea Arnold | 128 minutes | drama, romance | Actors: Kaya Scodelario, Nichola Burley, James Howson, Oliver Milburn, Amy Wren, Steve Evets, James Northcote, Shannon Beer, Solomon Glave, Paul Hilton, Simone Jackson, Jonny Powell, Paul Murphy

Director Andrea Arnold takes countless risks in her adaptation of the classic book “Wuthering Heights”. The film version is a completely different experience and Arnold never chooses the most common path. But almost all of her choices go wrong, making “Wuthering Heights” an extremely long session.

Obviously, the film version of Emily Brontë’s story was to become one for all the senses. But cinematographer Robbie Ryan (also known from Arnold’s other films) can’t get the vast landscapes to be enchanting, and the handheld camera work is so jerky that “Wuthering Heights” mainly gets on your nerves. It seems that the only moments when the picture is clear are animals being tortured or necrophilia taking place; that could never have been the intention of the director. But her choice to go over the two hours and not pair the film with music also makes it a difficult time. In addition, the actors cannot bear the film. Heathcliff (Solomon Clave and James Howson) and Catherine (Shannon Beer and Kaya Scodelario) may live their romance like that, but the intensity of their love doesn’t show. Never do the moments when the lovers are apart become oppressive and never do the facial expressions when they are together do all the work. The casting choices are also strange. Both with Heathcliff and Catherine, the young and older versions are not alike at all. If even the sparse texts are unable to get a grip, the whole seems little more than loose sand.

So unbalanced is “Wuthering Heights”; gambled and lost. It seems as if Andrea Arnold has no grip on the whole, where quasi-romantic moments are interspersed with the ubiquitous weather scene with insect noises everywhere, but without the ingredients that a romantic film should have: beautiful dialogues and beautiful music. It was Arnold’s brave choice to try to do it differently, but it turns out to be dramatic.

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