Friday, October 19, 2012

The wildness of Emily Brontë's quiet heart

New reviews of Wuthering Heights 2011 particularly as the film opens at the Seattle International Film Festival today. The Seattle Times gives the movie 3 out of 4 stars:

The double-casting of the young actors is understandable but problematic (Beer and Scodelario, in particular, are so dissimilar that even Cathy's new maturity can't explain the change), and sometimes the movie is so atmospheric (read: dark) that you can't quite tell what's happening to whom. But I found myself moved by Arnold's vision, and by Brontë's — who long ago, in a dark and drafty parsonage, captured on paper the wildness of her quiet heart. (Moira Macdonald)
Seattle Movie Examiner makes quite a bold recommendation:
For those enraptured by Cary Fukunaga’s sparse and intriguing Jane Eyre last year, Wuthering Heights is well worth your time. (Brian Zitzelman)
The San Francisco Examiner gives it 3 1/2 stars:
By cutting away the fancy decorations usually associated with literary adaptations, Arnold has stripped “Wuthering Heights” to its essence. This movie may not have frills, but its heart, full of pain and pleasure, truly beats. (Jeffrey M. Anderson)
The Boston Phoenix gives it 3 stars out of 4:
Merchant-Ivory this is not. Nor is it any Emily Brontë we've seen before, except maybe in Luis Buñuel's wild Mexican rendition, Abismos de passion [sic] (1954). Instead, Andrea Arnold distills the great novel into a flinty essence, creating a work that is the 19th-century Yorkshire version of her modern-day urban wastelands in films like Red Road and Fish Tank. She is equally ruthless with Brontë's prose, eliminating most of the original dialogue. Nonetheless, the film achieves its own harsh beauty and begrudging pathos. (Peter Keough)
The Boston Herald gives it a B+ despite loathing the shaky camera work.
Are you ready for Emily Brontë reality TV? You’d better be if you plan to see English filmmaker Andrea Arnold’s shaky-cam-on-the-Yorkshire moors version of “Wuthering Heights.”
Every generation gets the “Wuthering Heights” it deserves. But what have we done to have to watch a version that appears to have been filmed by a drunkard on the back of a dizzy donkey? (James Verniere)
The Boston Globe gives it 2 1/2 stars out of 4:
Brontë’s themes of wildness versus civilization are subtly illustrated through the use of windows: Heathcliff and Cathy inside looking out at nature, outside at night looking in at the lamplit domesticity of the Lintons. By contrast, the film’s close-ups of wildlife — buzzing moths, caged birds — are heavy-handed.
Purists will kick, too, since Arnold has done away with the framing Lockwood story line and the entire second half of the novel. But “Wuthering Heights” has always been impossible to shape for the screen. More difficult to swallow is the movie’s second half, when the older Heathcliff returns from his wanderings to find Cathy (now played by Kaya Scodelario) married to Edgar Linton (James Northcote).
The director’s semaphoric style — each scene a crudely fashioned dot we’re meant to connect on our own — betrays her here, and the naturalism she captured so effortlessly in the early scenes turns pretentious and forced. The film scampers to keep up with its own narrative; Arnold is so much stronger on atmosphere than event that she comes to seem resentful of Brontë’s plot, and the final scenes are less discomfiting than laughable. For all its daring, this “Wuthering Heights” shows us a gifted filmmaker pursuing a path so rigorous she forgets where it was supposed to take her. (Ty Burr)
The San Francisco Chronicle finds no passion in the film:
Half the film shows Heathcliff and Cathy as kids, walking around the windblown Heath. The desolated bleakness of the countryside, the silence save for the wind, the cold nights by the fire in a family in which no one speaks - these are the atmospherics of "Wuthering Heights" and the most memorable elements of it. Such a blank setting could have been put to good use. Indeed, it might have set off in sharp relief the intensity and force of Heathcliff and Cathy's strange connection. But no, they are as dull as their surroundings, both as children and adults.
That Arnold chose to cast inexperienced unknowns in the lead roles exacerbated the problem. When people can't act, they do one of two things: They either don't try, or they try and fail. In the case of the two Heathcliffs, young (Solomon Glave) and adult (James Howson), they didn't try. They just stay blank. In the case of the older Cathy (Kaya Scodelario), she did try, and what results are some of the biggest, falsest acting moments you'll see onscreen this year. To be fair, Shannon Beer as the young Cathy pretty much survives.
Arnold's previous film was "Fish Tank," a tale of modern English poverty, and in a movie like that you can cast unknowns, have them play close to their own personalities and get away with it - sometimes even benefit from it. But to employ that strategy in a period piece demanding epic emotion, that's just asking for trouble. And trouble is what this director got. (Mick LaSalle)
The Denton Record-Chronicle merely gives it 1 1/2 stars and sums it all up as follows:
The dark and often nearly indecipherable shaky-cam photography, the lack of sustained drama, the repetitiveness, the amateur cast and various other annoyances all add up to a disagreeable experience. (Boo Allen)
The Daily Californian is not too thrilled either:
It feels so natural and real that it seems less like an actual interpretation of Brontë’s characters and more like a study of the people that Brontë might have actually based her characters on. The upsetting thing is that real people aren’t nearly as fascinating as the colorful literary figures that fill the pages of 19th-century literature. And when your characters are as flimsy and unidentifiable as Arnold’s characters are, it’s hard to invest two hours just to follow them batter each other away emotionally and physically. (Braulio Ramirez)
The Boston Phoenix carries a short interview with Andrea Arnold:
"In a lot of the films it's portrayed as a Gothic mansion," she conceded. "But I went to the house — which is now a ruin — where Emily was inspired to write the book. And I looked at a lot of houses in Yorkshire that were from that time. They are little intimate houses in the middle of the moors. The families in them were thrown together and everyone could hear and see everything everyone did." (Peter Keough)
Coincidentally, the Financial Times praises the work of Robbie Ryan in passing in its review of Ginger & Rosa:
The cinematographer, startlingly, is Robbie Ryan, who lavished such transports of colour, texture and subtle chiaroscuro on Wuthering Heights. (Nigel Andrews)
Wuthering Heights 2011 is also reviewed by Movie Ink and Le Projet d'amour.

The Concord Patch mentions a recent talk by Margot Livesey:
Our own Maureen Belt was at New York Times bestselling author Margot Livesey’s talk last Thursday at the library, part of the Thursday Author Series sponsored by the Friends of the Library. She told me that Livesey talked about her recent bestseller, “The Flight of Gemma Hardy,” and about Charlotte Brontë, whose famous novel, “Jane Eyre,” served as a model for Gemma. The great part about an author talk is that she stayed after to talk with guests – an excellent opportunity to get all your burning questions about the novel answered. (Stefanie Cloutier)
And the Christian Books Examiner highlights a favourite detail from the novel The Amish Nanny by Mindy Starns Clark and Leslie Gould.
One thing that I particularly liked was that Ada read my favorite classic literature book Jane Eyre during her trip. There were quite a few parallels between the two stories and it added an interesting dynamic to this book. (Christin Dicker)
The Helsingborg Dagblad looks at 19th-century clothes guided by expert Birgitta Berglund, who
skrev sin doktorsavhandling om tre kvinnliga 1800-talsförfattare, bland andra Emily Brontë, väcktes hennes intresse för vad kläderna i romaner står för. (Göran Stenberg) (Translation)
The Herald Express looks into the connection some authors and places have such as
Wordsworth's lakes, Thomas Hardy's Dorset, Elgar's Malvern Hills; Yeats' Southern Ireland, Housman's dream-Shrophire; and Emily Bronte's Yorkshire Moors — the list of famous relationships spanning the centuries is long. (Brian Carter)
The Telegraph and Argus comments on the latest report on historic buildings published by English Heritage.
But perhaps most surprising is the listing of the Haworth Conservation Area.
The Brontë village, a Mecca for tourists from across the world, is identified as one of the region’s ten most important at-risk sites due to a general architectural decline.
For many people in these difficult belt-tightening times, finding enough money to pay the next fuel bill is probably of more importance than conserving the past.
But once our heritage has been lost, it has gone forever.
We won’t be able to recover it.
Deuzenn's Garden (in French) and Moly és Kukac (in Hungarian) post about Jane Eyre. Salvaged Spaces is thrilled about having found a vintage edition of the novel.

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