Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Taming of Wuthering Heights

The New York Review of Books asks, "Why is it so hard to film Wuthering Heights?"

From the piece...

There are movies we watch with a particular kind of divided attention: half following the action on screen, half trying to imagine the pitch meeting at which a producer was persuaded that the film would be (profitably) similar to a recent film that did well at the box office. During the many dull passages—lengthy shots of fluttering insects and of birds wheeling over the scenic British countryside—in the latest Wuthering Heights, directed by the British filmmaker Andrea Arnold and now being released in the United States, I found myself wondering how anyone could have been convinced that what the culture needed was yet another cinematic treatment of Emily Brontë’s novel. If one counts feature films, TV mini-series, Luis Buñuel’s Abismos de Pasión (1954), and Kiju Yoshida’s Arashi Ga Oka (1988), audiences have had more than twenty opportunities to watch Brontë’s doomed lovers race across the wind-swept moors. 

Then, about an hour into the newest version, it struck me: it’s Twilight! Transplanted from the rainy Pacific Northwest to even rainier rural England, deftly substituting a ghost for a vampire, the film contains many of the elements that made the screen version of Stephenie Meyer’s novel such a hit: repressed adolescent passion, self-denial, questions of masculinity, sexual competition, renunciation, romance thwarted by restrictive tribal loyalties. That’s how I would have pitched the film, and the fact that I was thinking of it while watching Heathcliff and Catherine break each other’s hearts was an indication of Arnold’s failure to capture a fraction of Brontë’s genius. 

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