Film: Wuthering Heights

The original novel

Aaaaaaaaand it’s another book to film adaptation, surely the 10,000th this year. But unlike some of the others, this is based on a classic and world famous novel, and has been adapted countless times before (as well of being the subject of everyone’s favourite Kate Bush song). I first read Wuthering Heights as a set text for my GCSEs, and completely fell in love with it and have read it numerous times since, so I was excited to see a modern take on the story.

If there is one word that sums up this film it’s ‘bleak’. Actually, two words: ‘bleak’ and ‘depressing’. The story isn’t a bed of roses anyway – the premise is the forbidden and tortured love of Cathy and Heathcliff that in the end is so toxic it destroys them. So I wasn’t expecting a laugh a minute. But this adaptation really did not hold back on the contempt and hatred the majority have for Heathcliff, and how this develops his own insufferable fury.

Filmed in the sweeping Yorkshire Moors, the setting is sparse and harsh, making it perfectly clear that this isn’t a Jane Austen ‘period piece’ for the BBC. This is nitty-gritty, down-and-dirty, smack-in-your-face dark Bronte, where the characters are alone even when they’re together, and separated from any reality we may know. Like the book, there was little dialogue, it is heavily based on imagery: Heathcliff’s disregard for life shown by the casual cruelty to animals; the gentle nature of Cathy towards Heathcliff by the collection of feathers; the lone swallow shown swooping across the sky without it’s companion from a previous scene to show the upcoming separation. It’s what I’d summarise as ‘arty-farty’. But it is beautiful. The lack of colour, the use of nature and the impact of the weather all create a story where the characters are keeping quiet. It’s enough to make you cry anyway, but then the story does that too.

The North Yorkshire Moors – Wuthering Heights country

I won’t include any spoilers for those of you that don’t know the plot (shame on you for not knowing it though!), but for fans of the book, there were significant changes to the ending – nothing changed, just left out. And my biggest disappointment was the missing out of the immortal words from Cathy, ‘
I AM HEATHCLIFF!‘ I also wasn’t a huge fan of the casting of Kaya Scodelario as Cathy, she seemed a big weak and flimsy – not stubborn, determined and increasingly bitter like her literary counterpart. The girl who played the younger Cathy though, Shannon Beer, was really incredible, she told the story in her eyes and gave a spin on the character that I hadn’t really thought of before.

This isn’t a film for a romantic night in. This isn’t a film for a fun trip to the cinema. This is a film to sit in the dark, crying, and with the promise of a pub afterwards. Visually stunning and a reasonably faithful adaptation, it should definitely be seen. Just proceed with caution.