Wuthering Heights

 

Wuthering Heights

Written by Andrea Arnold & Olivia Hetreed

Photography: Robbie Ryan

Production Design: Helen Scott

Art Direction: Christopher Wyatt

Costumes: Steven Noble

Editing: Nicolas Chaudeurge

Sound Design: Nicholas Becker

Casting: Gail Stevens, Des Hamilton & Lucy Pardee

Produced by Robert Bernstein, Kevin Loader & Douglas Rae

Directed by Andrea Arnold

Venice Film Festival, September 2011

U.K. Theatrical release, November 2011

 

Featuring:

James Howson as Heathcliff

Kaya Scodelano as Catherine

Solomon Glave as Young Heathcliff

Shannon Beer as Young Catherine

Lee Shaw as Hindley

Paul Hilton as Mr. Earnshaw

Oliver Milburn as Mr. Linton

Jonathan Northcote as Edgar

Nichola Burley as Isabella

Simone Jackson as Ellen (Nelly)

Michael Hughes as Hareton

Steve Evels as Joseph


Production Studio:

Theatrical: Ecosse Films For Film4

Video: Oscilloscope Laboratories

 

Video

Aspect ratio: 1.32:1

Resolution:1080p

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC

Disc Size: BD-50

Feature Size: 37.61 GB

Bit Rate: High (30~40 Mbps)

Runtime: 129 minutes

Region: All

 

Audio:

English DTS-HD MA 5.1

English LPCM 2.0

 

Subtitles:

Optional English

 

Bonus Features

• Video essay by David Fear of Time Out New York

• Original Theatrical Trailer 

 

Presentation:

Custom Gatefold Case: BRD x1

Street Date: April 23, 2013


 

Overview [Oscilloscope]

Andrea Arnold's Wuthering Heights is an excitingly fresh and distinct take on the classic novel by Emily Brontë. Arnold's film is a beautiful and evocative visual masterpiece that brings out the powerful emotions at the heart of Brontë's classic novel, resulting in a viscerally affecting love story. It is a sweepingly old-fashioned tale of family, class, and romance told in a bracingly modern way by one of contemporary cinema's most gifted and unique filmmakers. An epic love story that spans childhood well into the young adult years, the film follows Heathcliff, a boy taken in by a benevolent Yorkshire farmer, Earnshaw. Living in Earnshaw's home, Heathcliff develops a passionate relationship with the farmer's teenage daughter, Catherine, inspiring the envy and mistrust of his son, Hindley. When Earnshaw passes away, the now-grown characters confront the intense feelings and rivalries that have built up throughout their years together.


     

  

Critical Press

Chicago Sun-Times

In this rough-hewn film version by the British director Andrea Arnold, gone is the stylized elegance of William Wyler's 1939 version, with its eight Academy Award nominations and an Oscar for cinematographer Greg Toland ("Citizen Kane"). Gone are the polished performances of Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff, the servant from the Caribbean, and Merle Oberon as his young mistress, Cathy Earnshaw. . . Instead, this adaptation makes something evident that is strongly implied in the novel: Heathcliff, born as a slave, is Afro-Caribbean. He's played here by Solomon Glave as a youth and by James Howson after he returns to the Earnshaw family manor, having become in the meantime a wealthy man. Cathy (Shannon Beer when young, Kaya Scodelario when older) grows from a free-running, semi-wild child to a poised young lady whose transformation positions the two for what, at the time, would have been a transgressive relationship. . . What she hasn't done is make a terrifically entertaining film. Although this version dumps many of the novel's passages, particularly from the later chapters, it's dreary and slow-paced, heavy on atmosphere, introverted. I suppose life on an isolated moor was like that at the time, but do we need this much atmosphere? – Roger Ebert

     

Variety

An admirable attempt to strip the story of Wuthering Heights down to its barest, most primal elements, helmer Andrea Arnold’s first period feature and first adaptation of another writer’s work is unfortunately more interesting in theory than it is to watch. Working with mostly non-professional [actors] whose inexperience drains away much of the material’s intrinsic passion, pic is dramatically flat and almost stylized in its austere excision of dialogue, non-source music and, strangest of all given the book’s romantic rep, overt love scenes.

Arnold, known for her portraits of working-class life and intense sexual situations, also attempts to make the material her own. Shedding great chunks of dialogue so that the story becomes a kind of visual poem, haiku-like in its spareness, and dialing down the production values to lay more emphasis on the windswept, soggy-soiled natural landscape of Yorkshire against which events unfold, this Wuthering Heights almost doesn’t feel like a period film at all, apart from the odd glimpse of 19th-century underwear and obvious lack of central heating. The creepy sado-masochistic atmosphere [and] cruelty that hangs over the proceedings like a thick cloud, a violence directed not just at people but also at animals. . . despite the “no animals were harmed” disclaimer. Nature and mankind go at each other tooth and nail throughout, a sentiment of which Bronte would probably have approved. - Leslie Felperin


     

 

LensView: 5

As much as I often find myself in disagreement with general critical opinion, it is not the case here. Yes, Andrea Arnold should be lauded for presenting Heathcliff as the “dark-skinned gypsy” that he is described by Emily Bronte, but telling her tale through his eyes requires far more nuanced and layered acting than either Solomon Glave as young Heathcliff or James Howson as the adult Heathcliff can muster. Glave is saddled with a screenplay that requires little from him besides peppering his verbal utterances with “fuck” this or that at every real and perceived insult. His Heathcliff is an interior person. He looks but sees little. He is the very personification of an abused dog, picked up on the streets and brought home by a well-intentioned, but ill-equipped Christian person.


     

 

Arnold’s story-telling leaves much to be desired. Prior acquaintance with Bronte’s novel would go a long way to the film’s comprehension. The death of Mr. Earnshaw is described so cryptically that it took more resolve than I was prepared to muster to sort out what had happened and to whom for longer than I liked. And when Heathcliff overhears Edgar’s proposal to Cathy and her subsequent confession to Ellen (Nelly) that she loves Heathcliff but can’t marry him, the explanation of why he leaves so unceremoniously comes more from our basic understanding of what makes people tick than anything Arnold has given us to flesh out that understanding. On another hand, at his return four years later, Heathcliff relates that he was astonished to learn that Cathy accepted Edgar and was now married to him and living in relative prosperity. It doesn’t quite gel that this Heathcliff should think so highly of himself that Cathy would have waited for him after he left for so long without a word.


     

 

Still more disconcerting is the casting of these two young black man as against that for Cathy. Solomon Glave is as handsome a boy as the pleasant looking Shannon Beer as young Catherine would find in those parts, Heathcliff’s blackness notwithstanding. But Kaya Scodelano as the adult Cathy is an order of magnitude more lovely than James Howson. The difference is so striking that we can’t help but wonder why she still finds him attractive. Clearly, beauty was never what drove Cathy to Heathcliff in the first place. Rebellion and the attraction of the Wild, more likely. But what she is presented with by the adult Heathcliff is simply a more articulate version of his young self – still angry and resentful, and now that he’s older, rather boorish in the bargain. He has the look of a gentleman, but he still speaks like common lowlander, while the older Cathy’s voice is sweet and gentile. We would think that Cathy’s years with the Lintons would find Heathcliff’s manner and relative ugliness off-putting. Covers matter, despite what is usually said of books. I am speaking here of the movie, not the novel since in the novel she is torn between both and is uncertain what her core identity is. This is argued in the film up to a point, but unconvincingly.


     

 

Then there is the whole business of the film’s direction: the use of an unstabilized handheld camera, the narrowing effect of the 1.33:1 frame, made all the more constraining by Arnold’s habit of slicing one of two persons in the frame in half. Most of the film’s first hour tells the story of young Heathcliff in fits and starts, with very little dialogue, and lengthy, beautifully photographed passages of the moors, the mists, and Earnshaw’s brutal treatment of farm animals. I think Arnold’s intent is to suggest only what Heathcliff sees and feels through these images and this is why so much of the first half of the film is so stilted, cryptic, primitive and seething with rage on the one hand and willful on the other.


     

 

Video: 9

Say what you will, or what I will, about Arnold’s screenplay and directorial practice, her film is riveting to look at – or would be, if her camera would settle down. The mist is tangible; the moors, fanciful; the farm, pungent; the colors are pastoral yet prehistoric. You feel you can smell the blood, despite or perhaps the image is so bloodless - especially compared to the UK Artificial Eye Blu-ray. Oscilloscope does its usual brilliant job of staying out of the way in the transfer. The DVD is good, the Blu-ray is better. The mist on the HD disc has texture, and the ground has crunch.

      Oscilloscope (USA) above - Artificial Eye (UK) below

     

     

Audio & Music: 8/5

There is a certain clean, unprocessed, documentary feel to this film, no better in evidence than in the uncompressed audio mix. This is true for both the PCM stereo and DTS-HD MA 5.1, though the surround comes into its own rarely, such as in a torrential rain and the ever-present wind. Dialogue is often muted, so the HD version is to be preferred here. Subtitles are handy for those of us who have a tough time with the North English accent. There is no music score. What music there is comes entirely from the informal singing of the characters.

 

Bonus: 3

In the video essay from Time Out New York, David Fear applauds Andrea Arnold for her modern approach to the source material – this in respect to both casting and de-romanticizing life at Wuthering Heights. An Original Theatrical Trailer is also included.


     

 

Recommendation: 6

Since Oscilloscope’s video and audio transfer is superb (and pretty good also for the concurrently released DVD), the decision to buy, rent or pass will come down to how you respond to Ms Arnold’s filmmaking and the actors she chooses to project her characters. Her decision to cast black actors for the younger and older Heathcliff is a bold one, and she should be commended for it. There is also courage in respect to her uncompromising view of nineteenth century rural life, where living is hard and life is fragile. I do not personally respond positively to handheld camerawork and epigrammatic scenario, however. I’m willing to work at a film, but when I begin to feel that artifice is the result rather than art, I lose patience. That’s me. You may respond entirely differently. I should mention that for those that have access to a Region B player, the Artificial Eye is considerably cheaper; however the color is more naturally saturated, which may or may not correspond to the director’s intent.


     


Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

April 27, 2013



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