Friday, 2 December 2011

REVIEW: Wuthering Heights

Is Wuthering a name, a place, or a metaphor. Either way, spell check is telling it to go bite.

Before seeing this film, I had a conversation with a film loving friend about the nature of classical adaptations. He said that they were his favorite kind of film, and I told him I didn't understand how his brain worked and to promptly get the fuck out before I called the 5.0. To me viewing these films as the highest mark of your cinematic calendar is to take a frighteningly pessimistic view of what fiction can do, let alone cinema. It works on the fundamental belief that the best literature has already been written, the best stories being already told. And the most exciting thing to look forward to is the re-branding and re-imagining of these stories? Then really, what is anyone doing here.

Maybe I have a bias against these things, I don't know. Or maybe the 17th adaptation of Wuthering Heights has nothing more to say than the 16th, and what we're dealing with here is essentially properties people recognize. Like Superman or The Smurfs, Wuthering Heights rings a bell in our minds that means they don't have to convince us to try something new. None of this refers to this films, or any film like it's quality. It's not that they're bad movies, it's that they're the same movies. And Wuthering Heights, if it wants it, has a path to critical acclaim that completely passes ambition or risk and that bores me. Here, I actually think Andrea Arnold, who made the excellent Fish Tank, is playing with a lot of pretty bold stylistic choices, from going all Public Enemies in shooting a period film in digital, to making Heathcliff Black, something that Arnold does with out drawing too much attention to it (Although certainly some) and manages to amp up the sexually repressed despair nicely enough.

The performances are hit and miss, James Howson's Heathcliff works a treat, but while Effy from Skins as Cathy may have been a nice idea in theory, it doesn't really pan out and I think Kaya Scodelario impacts the quality of the film more than a bit. I didn't hate this, and it's probably about as a bold an adaptation of a classic work I've seen in quite some time. I just hope Arnold got this out of her system and goes back to making original films after this, even if they are harder to sell.

Rating: 6/10

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