Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights

Directed by: Andrea Arnold
128 minutes

New England Premiere

A far cry from Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon, director Andrea Arnold’s stark, radical adaptation of Emily Brontë’s oft-filmed novel brings a joltingly modern sensibility to the timeless tale. The shocking opening moments make it plain: this is not your mother’s WUTHERING HEIGHTS.

Sure, we still have Heathcliff (played as a young man by Solomon Glave), adopted as a workhorse on a Yorkshire Hill farm, where he longs for Catherine (Shannon Beer) and suffers mightily. But Arnold, spinning a similar feel to that of her hardscrabble British housing-project drama FISH TANK (IFFBoston Screening Series 2010), scraps any trace of romanticism and locks the viewer into Heathcliff’s anguished point of view. It’s a film of tactile sensations, full of overbearing weather and longing gazes through cramped doorways. The music-free sound design emphasizes the brutal indifference of nature.

Years later, shrouded in mystery, the now-adult Heathcliff (James Howson) returns to the farm with his heart set on Catherine (Kaya Scodelario), and perhaps revenge. Arnold’s jagged cutting patterns, contemporary slang, and arresting ellipses ratchet up the intensity to almost unbearable levels. The story has been told dozens of times, but this WUTHERING HEIGHTS is like nothing you’ve seen before.

—Vincent Archer