I’m as gutted as Heathcliff’s brace of rabbits. I know I’m supposed to love it. Every review I’ve read has been outstanding. And look… the film is incredible. That’s what’s killing me about it. It’s a masterpiece.
As an outdoor photography project it’s breathtaking. The pathetic fallacy was flinchingly exquisite, but quite sickening in its symbolic richness. As an essay on social history, again, bravo. The skinhead Hindley, the chavy Cathy (Shannon Beer is a young talent), and of course a black Heathcliff. Everyone’s had a bit of a light bulb moment over that. Of course he was black! It even says so in the first few pages of the book. And so we delve into a long web browser trail about the Liverpool slave trade.
The bare sounds of wind, rain, flesh breaking, bark snapping and horses heaving carried me through the film. But here’s my first fist at the screen… What the hell was up with that stupid pop (oh, I’m sorry, folk/rock) song at the end? The facile, clumsy lyrics were like a slap in my already cold and windswept face after a wonderfully soundtrack-free film. Couldn’t have been more inappropriate if they’d used Dancing Queen. Middle class white boys in waistcoats have naff all to do with Wuthering Heights. Especially not this Wuthering Heights, which is a beast quite apart from Bronte’s novel, and if it has a place, it has it as an angry and righteous comment on abuse, slavery, class and cycles of cruelty. If you really had to have modern music at the end like a Disney film, why not something that mirrors these themes? The music that this Cathy and Heathcliff would have listened to had they been alive today. Do you know what they would have thought of Mumford and Sons? Pile of old wank, that’s what.
It wasn’t until about half way through the film that I suddenly realised I was bored. Lucky I know the plot inside out because the film certainly assumed I would. I didn’t feel involved with any of the character. As my viewing companion said, “I like to be included in a film I watch.” One of the lead characters was missing entirely… Language. I think these fine young actors were left adrift because of the lack of language. This is a literary classic after all, surely we need some verbalisation beyond the odd exclamation, which in the mardy silence of the majority of the film sounded awkward, and not in the way Heathcliff’s supposed to sound awkward – more affected, but without owning the affectation à la Feinnes. There’s a big difference between saying nothing and having nothing to say. I felt that this Heathcliff had nothing to say.
I know that the story’s a little thin on joy, but Cathy and Heathcliff share incredible moments of happiness and passion together. That’s what makes us believe in them. That’s what makes it survive the grave. Where was the joy and the fun that Cathy and Heathcliff took in each other? And what about the happy ending – lest we forget there is one – in the form of the younger Cathy and Hareton? Ok, maybe happy is taking it a bit too far, but it’s certainly proud, rousing, defiant and bracing. This ending was undignified, degrading, hopeless and did a disservice to the characters and to Bronte’s strong spirit. Perhaps if there were a few less shots of Heathcliff laying down in profile there might have been time for Cathy’s daughter and one of the most poignant characters, Hareton, to make an appearance.
You had it so right and yet I was left stone cold. You stripped it down and simplified it to the point where it was chocker block with nothing. Usually Wuthering Heights makes me want to go and fight and fuck and fall in love with a mad ghost, but I just didn’t care. I didn’t care about Cathy, I didn’t look up to Nelly or down on Hindley, I didn’t feel sorry for Linton or Isabella, and Heathcliff as a necrophile certainly didn’t do it for me, (and isn’t Heathcliff supposed to do it for us girls just a little bit?)
Maybe we’re being shown how stark and bleak and unromantic it really would have been, but somehow I was left apathetic. It’s Wuthering Heights not This Is England… it’s a romance. A twisted one, yes, but then what love affair worth writing isn’t? I don’t think Cathy will bother coming back to haunt this Heathcliff, and I think he’ll probably get over her and move on. Not much of a ghost story here.
I wanted so much to love this film, and maybe I’m less ‘art film’ than I like to think I am because I’ve also discovered I like a little old school drama in my drama. I wanted the Wuthering bipolarcoaster. It’s left me frustrated because, as I said at the start, this is a masterpiece… just not of Wuthering Heights.
Vanessa Austin Locke