A girl with pale countenance emerges amidst the misty, somber moorland. Her still gaze is transfixed on somewhere distant, perhaps a mysterious object, which she observes with a mad gleam in her eyes. Besides her stands a young man; his piercing stare seems to extend into a foreign place where his unrealistic romantic whims are stored and protected. Although the two are far away from each other, the tension between them is so powerful that it’s almost magnetic – it pulls them closer. This is the bleak world of Wuthering Heights: the oppression, the tumult, and rage stemmed from it are capable of destroying one of the strongest bonds of love that ever existed in the fictional universe. More, this is Andrea Arnold’s modern adaptation of the classic British gothic novel, immersing us in the book’s poetic atmosphere at every turn.
OVID.tv Film Brings Classic Novel to Life
At Wuthering Heights, the desolate moorland permeates the whole screen space, accompanied by the bleating of the sheep and the grim-looking sky. People draped in old-fashioned, mucky dresses and shorts are seen coming out of a shabby residence, minding their own whereabouts. The eagles are hovering in the air, drifting in and out of the dense clouds; the rabbits are advancing stealthily among the wind-flattened grass, avoiding to be seen by their predators. The lonesome human figures are drifting through the vast moorland like apparitions, while the wind is howling through the branches of the trees, proud of its imminent victory. Such a wild, primal view seems to telegraph Heathcliff’s unruly character, giving us a visualization, in this writer’s view, of the very core of the story.
Thrushcross Grange, in stark contrast, is completely different from the crumbling mansion surrounded by the wilderness. Elegant, civilized, and sheltered, Thrushcross Grange’s living room is furnished with an exquisite set of furniture, including a marble fireplace with intricate carvings on it, several ornately-designed armchairs with floral patterns, a harp resting near the sun-lit windowpane, and numerous china vases. Outside the Grange, a hidden garden arranged by the servants is home to various kinds of flowers and fruit trees. Edgar Linton and his sister Isabella are clothed in exquisite finery, true to their social status. The grange can be seen as a microcosm of the civilized world.
In this writer’s view, the poignant performances by Kaya Scodelario (Catherine Earnshaw) and James Howson (Heathcliff) pull us even deeper into the story. The two share an intimate on-screen chemistry, their emotions so raw and delicate at times that we may feel we are intruding upon a private matter. Their eyes glisten when they exchange glances; when in agony, they look down at the ground, their lowered heads trembling slightly. “My plan was to see your face, get revenge on Hindley, and then kill myself.” Heathcliff admits to Catherine when he visits her after returning from his journey – “But I have changed my mind. I’ll never leave you ever again.” Catherine remains silent, yet her kitted brows and sealed lips give away her distress and remorse at that moment. She understands with clarity that something has changed forever between them two. Scenes such as this—from their shared childhood mischiefs to the passions that play out as the classic unfolds— vividly bring this classic to life on the screen both for those familiar with the classic novel and those new to the tale.
Passionate, elegant and moving---Wuthering Heights is especially recommended to English literature lovers, fans of British romantic drama, and viewers interested in adaptations of major literary works.
About the Author:
Cassidy Junyi Zhou is a rising sophomore at Vassar College pursuing a B.A. in English and Film Studies. She was born and raised in Chongqing, China, a city known for its rich Bashu culture and spicy food. In her free time, Cassidy enjoys watching movies, reading, and daydreaming about having a pet cat in the future. She is currently learning French (because of her interest in French avant- garde cinema!) and trying to master the art of cooking.