The Velvet Café

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But Heathcliff remains a mystery

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Heathcliff.

Please explain it to me.

Is there any reason why a woman should fall for him?

Pitying I can understand. It’s a shame that the kind man who brought this orphan to his family as an act of Christianity dies, leaving him to the mercy of the less than kind stepbrother.

But still. It boggles my mind how this guy could become a faint love interest for any girl. What do they see in him?

In Andrea Arnold’s version of Wuthering Heights, they’ve switched his skin colour, making him black instead of a gypsy, but as soon as you’ve gotten used to it, you see that it’s only the surface that has changed. He’s still as grumpy, violent, cruel, hateful and constantly swearing as ever before. Most of the time we see him, he’s staring sullenly, observing the world while saying nothing at all. Sometimes he gets violent and threatening. Very rarely does he seem to consider the interests of someone else, offering affection, friendship or love. Is he even capable of loving? Or are the cravings he apparently has for Catherine in fact a different force?

Heathcliff is someone who tortures puppies hanging them in bushes in their necklaces. So when Catherine finally decides to marry the rich brat of a neighbour rather than him, I don’t blame her for a second. Rather I wish that he would leave her alone, letting her live the rest of her life happily. But of course my hope is in vain. Heathcliff returns as he always does, to take out his aggression and get his revenge.

Not a romance
Compared to the novel, a lot of the story is left out. For instance the parts about the second generation are completely gone. But the core remains the same.

And I think to myself: maybe I’m doing it wrong when I’m looking for some kind of romantic love story about a couple that were made for each other but are wrongly kept apart by circumstances?

Maybe Brontë and Arnold didn’t intend me to cry over the misfortune of Heathcliff. It could be a different kind of story: one about the category of women who for some strange reason is attracted to men who treat them badly, heavy drinkers and abusers. Regardless of what they do, they’ll always excuse them since they’ve been treated badly in the past.

It could also be about physical attraction in its purest for, animalistic lust that has very little to do with romance and good behaviour. But if that was the case, I think Andrea Arnold misses the target a little. Apart from a little bit of innocent wresting in the mud, I don’t really sense the chemistry between Catherine and Heathcliff. The steam isn’t dense, so to say.

Taking cover
But let’s leave the Heathcliff mystery aside for a while. What did I think of the movie? Could I like it, even if I didn’t fully understand this relationship? Oh yes, absolutely! Above anything else I was absorbed by the cinematography. I’ve seen those areas on the screen before, but this was different. It felt as if someone for the very first time had managed to really capture the soul of the moor, showing the dampness, the loneliness and the darkness and at the same time the beauty of it.

I was so pulled into the landscape that it almost made me shiver. Instinctively I took cover under my parka, using it as a shield against the chill and the misery that poured out from the screen. I haven’t felt as cold as since I watched Winter’s Bone.

All those close-ups of plants and animals and insects might make you wonder a bit if Arnold or her cinematographer is planning for a career at the Discovery channel and I’ve seen some critics grumble about it. If you ask me, it’s what makes this movie so enjoyable despite all the misery. What could possibly be better than to explore the wildlife from your armchair, safe from blisters, thunderstorms and midges?

Heathcliff remains a mystery. But Andrea Arnold brought me closer to the moor. And for that I loved Wuthering Heights.

Wuthering Heights (Andrea Arnold, UK, 2011) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

April 13, 2012 at 1:00 am