Andrea Arnold, in my opinion, is among the very top contemporary British directors, with maybe only McQueen topping her (although I have yet to see ‘Shame’). Her latest film, ‘Wuthering Heights’ was released recently, and got a wide release in the UK last week.
This film is far from perfect, but what has often been missing in British cinema all too often is to go for broke with their films. To go all out for perfection. ‘Wuthering Heights’ goes all out. Its unashamedly reaching towards the arthouses, something that British film makers are often seemingly embarrassed to do.
My first question is the obvious, what is peoples opinion of the film? I think by the films very nature, its designed to divide.
Second, where does it fit with her previous films, ‘Red Road’ and ‘Fish Tank’?
And finally, is she the best British contemporary director? And if not, who is?
As I’ve hinted at, I think ‘Wuthering Heights’ is an extremely good film, although I felt it lost some power towards the end as we see the older Cathy and Heathcliff. It seems to lose steam, however it is constantly picked up by moments when we see flashes of the couple as youngsters
For me though, the show-stealer is Robbie Ryan, the Director of Photography. In my opinion, he pushes Emmanuel Lubezki for best cinematography in ‘The Tree of Life’, no mean feat. Nature is key in this film, the environment is just as an important character as any other in the film, maybe even the key one. When we are running with the characters on the windy hills are total stand-out moments for me. Did people feel the same?
In regards to this and her previous films, the obvious difference is this is a period piece, unlike the other films. Im almost certain she’ll return to more contemporary situations later on, but there is a lot in common for me in those previous films and this one. The estates shown in ‘Red Road’ and ‘Fish Tank’ for me become microcosms within the home of Cathy and Heathcliff. There is also the issue of class in all three films, with ‘Wuthering Heights’ having the addition of race. These are obviously important issues to Arnold, and in my opinion she has always hit the mark with these representations. ‘Fish Tank’ is a superb example of the white lower-class in Britain.
‘Wuthering Heights’ story, maybe influenced by how it is filmed, is extremely free-flowing and loose, and I extremely hope she continues in this manner! British Cinema is in an extremely good place right now! It didn’t even receive a nomination at the British Independent Film Awards…!
I’m looking forward to this one. I loved Red Road, liked Fish Tank, and agree that Arnold is a unique voice in cinema today (although I’ve seen Shame and she is no Steve McQueen. lol).
My concern though is the material. I never read the book or know much about the story but I’m not really into period films. Do you think I will like this just based off her previous films?
I finished reading the book literally a few days before the film came out. They are all but different materials. Andrea Arnold takes the skeleton and thats about it.
Im not a fan of period film either, but it transcends that completely for me, the characters, environment are so involving. Its far more than just costumes and talking in old English.
Im not completely sure liking her previous films will mean you will like this one. Like I said, its far looser, far-reaching than the others. It keeps the main core however of her work, and for me is a clear progression in her work.
Its beautifully shot and beautifully performed but also beautifully directed, i said it and i will say it again its Andrea Arnolds best film yet. I really wouldnt mind watching it again and the film doesnt have a score but the sound of the wind and the look of the yorkshire countryside is quite stunning.
Good to hear. I look forward to seeing it.
I’ve been talking about this with a couple of other people who have read the book and seen the film recently and I just think it should be recognised what a subtlety detailed adaption Arnold achieves. There are moments that have been criticised in reviews and comments (such as the swearing) that are actually incredibly faithful, not to the letter of the book (that’s wouldn’t be adaption anyway but facsimile), but to the suggested happenings that the book only partially describes. (that’s awkwardly expressed I know).
Although, I don’t think the major achievement of the film is its handling of the text, I think too many people have a sense of the book when they criticise the film rather than actually considering the details of the films handling of individual moments. Too many people seem to expect an adaption of Bronte’s voice rather than an adaption of the history that her novel relates. The film doesn’t try to adapt the literature but the time (moment to moment) that the literature describes, in a way the novel couldn’t.
The film is certainly isn’t perfect (should it be?) but I think that it pushes much further in terms of what film can achieve than McQueen ever has. It may not be a film that everyone likes but I really think it is an important film (and i know i shouldn’t say that lightly) and that is in part because of the challenge it sets itself.
@celeryfc I completely agree about the cinematography. Ryan really deserved the Osella at Venice. And if you haven’t seen Arnolds short film Wasp (although I imagine you have) then that really should blow your mind. The rhythm of it is incredible. I’m a bit shy of poetry/film comparisons but I think it is valid for Arnold and her short is like a little lyric. Definitely agree on the future of British film. Also hope we see Kapadia back in the driving seat of narrative film after his success with Senna. Very different filmmaker but brilliant.
You are right, I have seen Wasp, and you are also right about it being fantastic!
About the language, mostly the swearing, I’d agree with your comment that is not out of place with the book. Its there in the book, just not said. Arnold has attempted a real portrayal of a time period within the context and framework of that film. I have no idea if they used the word ‘cunt’ then…but is it really important?
What was also interesting, and was the centre of many articles is the ‘black’ Heathcliff stuff. For me, it adds an extra layer of depth to the story. It becomes not only a story of class, but also of race. These combined creates a tale of love vs prejudice, it reaffirms the whole thing for me. People seem to have been sucked into the pointless debate of what did Bronte actually mean by her description (“dark-skinned, gypsy like” I think off the top of my head) and ignored what the story now means when Heathcliff is, just, black (or non-white, any other race a part from white would have had the same impact). It is a story of repression of class and/or race, just like ‘Wasp’, ‘Red Road’ and ‘Fish Tank’.
I have seen ‘Shame’ now as well, and feel it was a better film (it doesnt sag anywhere near as much towards the end as ‘Wuthering Heights’ does), and that McQueens two films are better than Arnolds three, but ‘Wuthering Heights’ is still for me among the very best this year.
I’ve yet to see any version of Wuthering Heights, but if I were making such a film, the first thing I’d do is ask Kate Bush if she wanted to score the film—not just use her famous pop song in the credits, I mean really score the film start to finish. I’d be amazed if nobody thought of it. I’d actually like to take a shot at the book, since I probably don’t read enough novels.
@celeryfc I think I can agree with pretty much everything you say. The swearing thing is a moot point but i can pretty much guarantee that cunt was alive and well at the time, possibly more acceptable. I think the race aspect (despite being there in the book) does a really good job of making the Heathcliffe’s alienation more tangible for an audience less class aware than the original. I think it’s probably more uncomfortable to watch racism because it’s still such an open wound for our society. Thinking about your comments about McQueen being better than Arnold (I can’t disagree as I’m still waiting to see Shame) I’ve posted a new thread about how we value filmmakers in the forum and I’d love to hear your point of view.
@markissuspendedingaffa if only bush would write another full score. Aerial felt like it could have been.
Wuthering Heights opens in the US in March or April 2012. In case someone wants to know.
But could you imagine Kate Bush doing a score for an entire film? That would be astonishing.
Peter Gabriel, who mentored Kate and has worked with her on a number of occasions, was an unlikely choice to score Rabbit-Proof Fence, but the result was nothing short of magical.