Wuthering Heights (2011)

This version is directed by Andrea Arnold, who also directed Fish Tank (2009), which won the Cannes Jury Prize. It seems that Arnold is attracted to grim stories - hence Wuthering Heights is perfect fodder for her. Her take on the film is unique, bringing her penchant for gritty realism to the story in a way that strips aways the costume drama and wordy dialogue to a bare knuckles slug fest in the mud. Whether it will appeal to everyone, including fans of the book, is another thing.

The notable feature of this version is the way the harshness of the Yorkshire landscape is captured on screen, with the howling wind and perpetual rain dominating the sound and cinematography. There is no soundtrack and little dialogue, and the camera for the most part is hand-held. The viewer hears and sees the highlands as if they are really there. The result is a striking balance of the harshness yet beauty in the landscape that mirrors the mix of innocence and tragedy that besets the main characters.

Actors James Howsan (as the adult Heathcliff) and Kay Scodelario (the adult Catherine) headline the acting credits, but they are overshadowed by the actors playing the younger versions of the same characters. Arnold has cast Heathcliff as black, and in so doing has transformed the story into one about racism, not class difference. Solomon Glave pulls off a credible young Heathcliff. Glave plays the young Heathcliff as quiet, reserved, but capable of a mouthful of expletives when the situation requires (in a way that the original author Bronte might have intended had such language been acceptable prose in her day). Shannon Beer shines as the young Catherine in an outstanding performance - innocent, playful, yet sensitive to the tragedies that unfold around her. Her performance makes the movie worth watching if for nothing else.

Howsan and Scodelario put in indifferent performances as the older Heathcliff and Catherine. Scodelario in particular appears miscast - her physical appearance and personal mannerisms being too delicate and too diferent from the younger version played by Beer. Consequently it is difficult to connect the two incarnations of Catherine in a believable way, stretching the suspension of disbelief beyond what the viewer can readily allow.

The 2011 version won't please all Wuthering Heights fans, but for those looking for an original take on the classic story, Andrea Arnold's version is definitely worth a watch. This feature runs for 2hrs and 8 minutes. It was theatrically released in 2011. See the trailer below.