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Film Review: Wuthering Heights – Emily Bröntes Sturmhöhe
by Becky Tan

Andrea Arnold, UK 2011

Mr. Earnshaw lives in England with his daughter Cathy, son Hindley, and household help Nelly. He finds a homeless boy on the streets of Liverpool and brings him home for food and warm clothing. The boy remains with the family and is baptized with the name Heathcliff. Hindley is jealous of the attention Heathcliff receives from his father; why should this orphan get to choose which horse he wants to ride? Cathy feels drawn to Heathcliff in a romantic way. Their neighbors, the Linton family, live in a large, beautiful house and their children Isabella and Edgar play with the Earnshaws. Further into the story Hindley goes off to college. Cathy and Heathcliff begin a more serious relationship. However, it is logical that Cathy should seriously consider a future with Edgar Linton, who is in her own social class, contrary to Heathcliff. This upsets Heathcliff and he runs away. The story picks up a few years later. Mr. Earnshaw has died, and Hindley has returned to take over as head of the household, which slowly deteriorates. Cathy and Edgar are together. Heathcliff returns, very good looking and obviously quite successful. He thinks, perhaps with his new financial situation and success, he might have a chance for the attention of Cathy, who is pregnant. Instead, Isabell falls in love with him. There are more deaths. 

This is Andrea Arnold’s third film and the first for which she was not responsible for creating the story. It is based on Emily Brönte’s 1847 book and has been filmed many times. Starting with a silent movie in 1920, this is the first time it has been filmed with a black actor playing Heathcliff. This version of WUTHERING HEIGHTS (also called STURMHÖHE in German) reflects Andrea Arnold’s style beautifully. There is gorgeous scenery, but most of the scenes are dark, filmed at night, often both gloomy and rainy. Text is limited to telling the basic story. There is very little music, although 12 songs were listed in the credits. So, where were they in the film? There is brutality, when Heathcliff is locked up as a means of ‘education’; there is beauty when lovers have sex in the mud. With so much arguing and disagreement, I often wondered why Heathcliff felt attracted to this family, although he had no other. We left the cinema wanting to read the book again. The film played at many festivals such as Venice, Toronto, London, and Zurich. After showing WUTHERING HEIGHTS at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, Arnold rented a car and drove through the USA, which inspired her for her next film AMERICAN HONEY.