Wuthering Heights
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Wuthering Heights

More like withering tripe.

Andrea Arnold (UK, Special Presentations)


Friday, September 9, 7 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 (350 King Street West)

Saturday, September 10, 12 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 1 (350 King Street West)

Friday, September 16, 9 p.m.
Visa Screening Room (The  Elgin, 189 Yonge Street)

Watching Wuthering Heights, one feels that director Andrea Arnold may be better suited to producing episodes of Planet Earth rather than an Emily Brontë novel. In between nearly every scene are shots of nature—beetles, moths, bushes blowing in the wind—to the point that any narrative flow is stalled by Arnold’s investment in pathetic fallacy. Rather than entrenching us further with Heathcliff, this choice ends up losing the film in the moors.

Adapting Brontë’s canonical text, Arnold turns away from romantic notions of love and lust, setting the film in the mud and grit of the English 19th century countryside. And muddy it is. While this may be a refreshing take on the bodice ripper convention, Arnold continually hammers the audience over the head with the theme of cleanliness (if the young Heathcliff [Solomon Glave] being stripped bare and washed is not enough then there’s when he and Catherine [Shannon Beer] lovingly mud wrestle). Though this tendency to overemphasize themes was present in Arnold’s second film Fish Tank (please recall the chained white horse), Wuthering Heights‘ unrestrained run time means these flaws have room to develop. Further, Arnold’s shifting from the micro to the macro becomes frustratingly indulgent rather than illuminating, as her camera pauses on the characters’ hands caressing horses or Catherine’s tongues licking wounds (shots which we are then subjected to again in a series of flashbacks). While Glave and Beer as the young protagonists deliver stunning performances, and certain frames capture the simultaneous stark beauty and harshness of the landscape, unless you are game for a marathon run through the moors, you can let this one wither away.