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Sundance 2012: Wuthering Heights

January 28, 2012


Keeping It Reel is happy to have our Utah correspondent, Catina Martinez (see below), return with her coverage of the Sundance Film Festival….



written by: Andrea Arnold & Olivia Hatreed (screenplay) and Emily Brontë (novel)

produced by: Robert Bernstein, Kevin Loader & Douglas Rae

directed by: Andrea Arnold

rating: unrated

runtime: 175 min.

U.S. release date: January 22, 2012 (Sundance Film Festival)


Wuthering Heights is a story of chick-flickery at its finest.  I’ve seen it sliced and diced at least half a dozen times and have loved it in most of its incarnations.  The Brontë sisters knew how to write a heroine without any of the pretensions of the Jane Austin ilk.  Director and co-writer Andrea Arnold’s ( “Fish Tank” ) take on the classic book is the first adaptation that I have ever truly disliked.  It was my daughter’s introductory film to Sundance, and I could feel the boredom emanating from her as this film dragged on for an unthinkable three hours! I wanted to love this film and I really tried.

Arnold cast first-timer James Howson, a black man, in the iconic role of Heathcliff, which really worked. But the story gets lost in the blatant attempt to score cinematography brownie points that should have been better edited.  There are a lot of David Lynchian closeups, which were beautiful at first, but then became cumbersome when we reached the two-hour mark…knowing the story so intimately made me cringe when I realized that we were only three-quarters of the way to the end credits.  I was also bothered by the lighting in the film…at times it was so dark that you couldn’t tell what was going on. It felt as though the story was sacrificed for mood and a pretty atmosphere.

The story is familiar enough; The Earnshaw family adopts a young orphan from the streets, whom they call Heathcliff (Soloman Glave plays the character as a child and Howson portrays him as a young man).  He is wild and untamed, not unlike their daughter Catherine (played by Shannon Beer as a child and Catherine Earnshaw “Clash of the Titans” as a young adult), who he becomes  fast friends with – a bond that can be described as being beyond friendly.  Unfortunately, Heathcliff is despised by Cathy’s brother Linley, and forced to work like a servant when their father passes away.



The film does a good job showing how Heathcliff ‘s treatment ultimately leads him to become a cold, revenge-driven man, whose sole purpose is to destroy the Earnshaw family as well as the nearby Linton family.  Heathcliff’s hatred and bitterness becomes an inherent part of his personality when Cathy chooses to marry Edgar Linton (James Northcote), a wealthy neighbor.  Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights to go find his own fortune, and when he returns, he successfully sets his plan in motion to destroy the two families.

A very married Cathy resumes her relationship with Heathcliff, until her unfortunate and early death. Heathcliff is haunted by Cathy’s ghost both literally and figuratively, becoming a tortured soul who in turn tortures those around him, and of course, it ends badly for all involved.

The book itself, gives you more of a sense of inherent evilness in both Heathcliff and Cathy.  While their love might be true and intense, there are no other redeeming qualities in either of them. This rendition does do a great job of showing why Heathcliff becomes so embittered, which is a bit of a departure from the book.  I also loved that the director cast unknowns in the lead roles – to me, this is what indie film making should be about. See this movie if you have never been diagnosed with ADD, can sit through three  hours of overwrought, but beautiful cinematography, or are a sucker for an original take on an old story.



RATING:  *1/2





Catina Martinez  is a reader and a writer – living, loving and playing in the
Wasatch Mountain Range.  Her film enthusiasm peaks once a year, with
Sundance, which she enjoys attending at The Egyptian Theater in her
hometown of Ogden.  She lives with her wonderful children, a dog, a
cat and works full-time in marketing.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Kat M permalink
    January 29, 2012 2:34 pm

    The first review i’ve agreed with!! OMG long long long and the camera work was beautiful and interesting at first but seriously how many times can you zoom in on that branch at the window and the graffiti on the wall of the house, gate, goat (?) scene. I actually started giggling (quietly! to myself!) about half way through when it happened again (and again…) We, all four of us that went together, gave it four thumbs down for being a typical overly pretentious film. Fortunately, the other 6 films we saw we all rated much higher!

  2. francesca permalink
    January 30, 2012 12:57 pm

    I shall definitely see this because yes, it’s always interesting to see a new spin on a very well known story. The problem I’ve had with other adaptations is that we don’t often see the the latter part of the book , films tend to finish at a point half way through the story thus emphasising the romantic ‘haunting’ aspect rather than the bitterness and cruelty that pervades and informs the entire tragedy. I’ve always felt that WH was more of a sweeping gothic horror than a romance,( apart from the redemptive ending which strikes a totally false note) I’d like to see a film that reflects this. Thanks for a great review Cat 🙂


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