“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
~ James Gray
Film Essent Archive for February, 2012
Hitting the streets this week, for those out there who are serious film buffs, is No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo and Vilmos, a warm, compelling look at the long friendship between famed Hungarian cinematographers Laszlo Kovacs and Vilmos Zsigmond. If you love movies you’re already an admirer of their work. Kovacs shot Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Paper Moon and Ghostbusters; Zsigmond shot McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Deliverance, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (for which he won the Oscar) and The Deer Hunter. What No Subtitles Necessary gives you is a closer, more personal look at the two friends, along with a great deal of conversation about their work from some of the famous people who’ve worked with them.
The pair met as film students in Budapest, and together they risked their lives to film the uprising against the Communist regime in Hungary in 1956 before fleeing across the border with their footage. They headed to Hollywood, where both paid their dues shooting whatever movies they could get work on – horror movies and the like – until each of them got the breaks that allowed them to elevate their work to the level we’ve come to know and respect them for. And what work it has been; both Kovacs and Zsigmond have set new bars for the understanding of how to work with, shape, and change light, and for how to be creative in guerrila-style filmmaking. Anyone aspiring to work in this field cannot help but have been influenced by their work.
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Last night, TJ Martin, who won the Oscar for Documentary feature alongside his co-director Daniel Lindsay and producer Richard Middlemas, became the first Black person ever to win an Oscar for directing a feature-length film.
Way back in 2005, when the idea of winning an Oscar was maybe a gleam in the back of his eye, I met TJ when I interviewed him as a part of the Seattle International Film Festival’s Fly Filmmaking competition. TJ had a great little short in the competition called “… Loves Martha,” his first (and so far as I know, only) foray into narrative filmmaking. Here it is for your viewing pleasure. It’s still one of my favorite short films, even if TJ knew back then that documentary would be his thing.
… And here’s the interview I did that year with TJ, his fellow fly filmmaker Thom Harp, and director Andy McAllister, who shot the documentary of the Fly Filmmaking competition that year. The third fly filmmaker, Sue Corcoran, wasn’t at this interview. (Note: Under the terms of my contractual agreement with Cinematical/AOL at the time this piece was published, all rights to my work for them reverted back to me after five years. So I’m running the entirety of it right here, rather than linking over to Moveifone, which still has it archived).
Also, interesting fun fact of Seattle filmmaking trivia: Andy McAllister’s DP on his feature films Urban Scarecrow and Shag Carpet Sunset was none other than Megan Griffiths (The Off Hours, Eden), who will probably win an Oscar some day herself. Seattle rocks independent film.
Now, here’s that interview from 2005, right after the jump …
If you’re a would-be screenwriter or filmmaker, chances are pretty good you’re either also holding down a day job to pay the bills, or constantly struggling to make ends meet … or both. Everyone’s waiting for that break that makes it easier. Here are some upcoming opportunities that you might want to check out:
FIND Fast Track
Deadline: February 27
Application Fee: $40
What it is: Access to three days of intense meetings with financiers, producers, agents and managers during the Los Angeles Film Festival.
Must have: Completed feature-length script (narratives) or detailed feature-length documentary proposal. No treatment-only for narrative submissions.
Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting
Deadline: Early Bird – March 15; Regular – May 1
Application Fee: Early Bird – $35; Regular – $52
What it is: Up to five $35,000 fellowships awarded; fellows are expected to complete a feature-length screenplay during their fellowship year.
Must have: Completed feature-length narrative screenplay.
Sundance Institute Screenwriter’s Lab
Deadline: Open now – May 1
Application Fee: $35
What it is: 12 projects selected for participation in the January Screenwriters Lab (the only open-entry point into the Sundance Labs). First or second feature films only.
Must have: Completed feature-length narrative screenplay.
PAGE International Screenwriting Awards
Deadline: Regular — March 1; Late — April 2
Fee: Regular — $49; Late — $59
What it is: Screenwriting competition with $50,000 in cash and prizes
Must have: Completed feature-length screenplay. Animation and musical scripts are accepted for this contest.
Deadline: Early — August 1; Final — September 4
Application Fee: Early — $35; Late — $50
What it is: Francis Ford Coppola’s screenwriting competition. Winner and finalists have access to studios and agents reading their script. Winner gets $5,000.
Must have: Completed feature-length narrative screenplay.
Hammer to Nail Short Film Contest
Application Fee: $30
What it is: Short film contest judged by a rotating panel of judges. Monthly winner gets fee waivers to a slew of major fests.
Must Have: Completed short film
Check it out! We have a spandy new trailer for my short film, Bunker. Big thanks to my husband Mike Hodge, who in addition to exec producing this project, serving as 2ndAC on set, moving furniture in and out of the set, and custom-building and staining an entertainment center, did a bang-up job editing this trailer. Thank you, Mike. And thanks to Ken Stringfellow for the beautiful work on the score, which we were able to repurpose nicely here.
P.S. We also have a brand-new IMdB page. It still has that “new database entry” scent.
Do religious institutions have a valid constitutional argument in challenging the contraceptive access law? Maybe.
I’ve been having lots of discussions on Twitter and Facebook about this week’s latest volley of attacks by the Republican party that seem squarely targeted at women. From “personhood” laws that seek to eradicate access to abortion to this week’s Male-Opinions-Only-Please Congressional hearing on the issue of the contraceptive access law, everywhere we look it seems we’re seeing the GOP attacking women. And we should be clear on what the agenda is here: A large segment of the GOP seeks to redefine gender roles on a broader societal level, to reframe what being “woman” means. And it seems the GOP would like the term “woman” to mean some throwback to the pre-feminist ideals of the 1950s, because everyone knows that feminism killed family values. (Wait, was it feminism or the Gay Agenda? I forget.)
It’s easy for liberal intellectuals to be snootily dismissive of the religious right, but we need to pay attention, folks. Posting snarky Twitter comments equating belief in God to belief in the Tooth Fairy may be hilarious atheist humor, but that kind of loud-mouthed ridicule — apart from being utterly arrogant and condescending — is a great way to ensure your perceived opponent will tune you out before you even start making your point. Really brilliant. What’s at stake here isn’t whether you believe in God or you think people of faith are idiots, but about who holds the power and what place women have within that power structure. It’s about societally defined gender roles, about the power relationship between men and women, and about who gets to impose their values on whom. Personhood laws, in particular, are about power and gender as much as they’re about abortion.
But the debate over the contraceptive access law has been lumped in with all that other nonsense, and it needs to be separated. This particular issue is one of constitutionality, religious freedom, and First Amendment rights, not about birth control, and both sides would do well to remember that. On Thursday, the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform held hearings to allow religious leaders an opportunity to make their case that the Obama-driven law that requires religious based institutions to provide contraceptive coverage as part of their health-care package is a violation of the Church’s religious liberty. Unfortunately, the decision by the GOP to call only male witnesses to testify about an issue so pertinent to women has obscured the whole religious liberty argument almost completely, which is unfortunate because that is the issue we really need to be discussing here.
President Obama advocates for all women having access to birth control without co-pays, and so do I. But the question is whether religious institutions, like Catholic hospitals and universities, should be required – compelled by the federal government – to pay for contraception, which goes against the teachings of the Catholic Church. And really, it would behoove the religious right to keep the discussion out of the realm of sex and family planning and in the strict realm of the First Amendment and religious freedom, because that’s not only where they’re most likely to cross political lines to get support, but also, coincidentally, where they might actually have a legal leg to stand on.
This is a tough issue for me. I was raised Catholic in parochial schools, taught by nuns. My uncle is a priest. I am firmly pro-choice, and I’ve used birth control throughout my adult life, but I don’t believe that under most circumstances, I’d get an abortion myself. As an adult, I’m a liberal socialist who’s chosen the path of Unitarianism, and that’s how I’m raising my kids, but I can’t deny that there’s a part of my personal values that were informed inexorably by the faith within which I was raised. There are feminists, I’m sure, who would argue that the mere fact that I chose to have five children disqualifies me from any claim to being a feminist, although I’ve always believed that the whole point of pro-choice is that women have the right to make the choice for themselves whether or not to bear and raise children, and that my choice to have five kids doesn’t make me any less a feminist than someone who chose to have five abortions.
I believe that access to contraception, for both men and women, should be free and universal, but I personally am more in favor of the idea that our government should be paying for those things directly through some sort of universal access to health care, than of the idea that we can or should force values that deal in matters of faith on the religious institutions our Constitution is designed to protect. In other words, just because I think access to contraception is a Good Thing doesn’t mean I think that it’s necessarily right to make your church’s dollars pay for my Depo shot, or your faith-based hospital to provide me with an abortion, and I think you may have a constitutional argument there. On the other hand, I also don’t believe that your faith gives you the right to pass laws based on your faith that dictate that women cannot have an abortion or access to contraception. You don’t want to use contraceptives or have an abortion, I have no problem with that, but stay out of my uterus, please. In the case of this particular law, though, we may be looking at a case where the government is actually stepping across the boundary between Church and State in a way that sets a dangerous precedent.
The contraceptive coverage law as written does force churches that happen to also own and run private universities and hospitals to pay for something that’s directly in opposition to the teachings of their faith. I don’t think there’s any denying that, is there? And if the belief that contraception is murder is an inexorable part of their faith, if we force them to pay for contraception, have we not created a law that prohibits the free exercise of religion? And if so, how does that not violate the First Amendment?
If you have an argument based on the constitutionality of the issue, I’d be very interested in hearing it, because the grounds on which to advocate for this law are not around the issue of whether birth control is right or wrong, or on whether the Catholic Church is stupid for being opposed to birth control, but simply on the constitutionality of the law. Find the argument that proves the law is, in fact, constitutional. That’s what the focus of the discussion needs to be. Because if we can’t make a coherent argument that its not a violation of the First Amendment to force a religious institution to pay for something that’s in opposition to its faith, we’ve lost the argument already.
Yesterday I wrote this piece about what’s up with indie film in the digital age, a subject that’s been much on my mind as I look at what direction I want to take with my own filmmaking. The vision in my head for how I would do this has always been firmly rooted in the belief that there would always be film and that some day I would shoot on it, but the times are clearly changing and that may never happen.
Cue Indiewire senior editor Peter Knegt, with this excellent interview from Berlin with filmmaker and digital cinema historian Keanu Reeves (yes, THAT Keanu Reeves) who together with director Chris Kenneally interviewed a veritable treasure trove of smart people for the documentary Side by Side, which is playing at the Berlinale. The documentary explores the changes the advent of digital has brought — and continues to bring — to our ever-shifting industry. It’s an excellent interview, and one of the most relevant subjects of the moment concerning the future of our field. Good stuff.
During a rather passionate discussion that I got embroiled in on Twitter yesterday, Ambrose Heron posited the question: What exactly is indie film in 2012? That’s an excellent question, and one that deserves a hell of a lot more consideration within our industry than 140 characters quips, so let’s discuss.
Like the silent film era giving birth to talkies in The Artist, the landscape of film as we grew up with it is changing. It is. Over the next five, ten years, while much about what we think of as “independent film” will still be recognizable, the way in which it’s consumed clearly will not be. The digital era is a game changer for our industry, just as it spelled the end (or near end) of film even as the Old Guard at Kodak fought to cling to those little yellow boxes like removable seat cushions after the plane’s taken a nosedive into the Atlantic.
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Last weekend I made what’s come to be an annual trek to Oxford, Mississippi for the Oxford Film Festival. This year I brought my son Jaxon along for his first-ever trip with me to a festival, and I think he had a great time as well. Oxford has always had some of the best hospitality I’ve seen at fests, and the length of your film isn’t what matters at Oxford. They treat all their visiting filmmakers equally well, rolling out the Southern hospitality and charm. Over the years, I’ve heard countless filmmakers rave about what a surprisingly great time they have at this fest. The hotel where everyone stays is simple – comfortable beds, functional furnishings, nothing fancy. But it’s right near the Square, where everything’s happening, and the fest provides frequent shuttle service that makes it easy to get around. Everyone’s friendly, and the fest’s social-heavy schedule with an emphasis on late-night parties and later-night after parties encourages everyone to make new friends.
I’ve written quite a bit about Oxford over the years, in part because it’s remained an interesting fest to return to year after year. They never get complacent; every year since I’ve been attending it, they’ve tried something new, thought outside the box, aimed higher. Oxford’s a great model for smaller regional fests, and a great example of why regional film festivals matter. When they’re run well, regional fests curate a selection of film that simultaneously speaks to and challenges their audience; they bring diverse independent film to places that otherwise wouldn’t have that access; and they grow and nurture interest in cinema, which both increases the range of cinematic voices and preserves the future of film as an art form. Oxford accomplishes all those goals.
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All over Twitter and Facebook today, virtual jabs have been tossed back and forth between those who think Chris Brown winning for Best R&B Album equates to the Grammy Award’s tacit approval of Brown’s physical assault of his then-girlfriend Rihanna three years ago … and those who think it’s time to move on, already. The question is, does an awards show like the Grammys have a responsibility to be be the moral judge of the choices and mistakes a performer makes in his or her personal life?
I guess that depends on your view of what the Grammys represent. The point of the Grammys, much like the Oscars, is to reward and recognize the work of artists in their given fields. A Grammy isn’t an award recognizing the guy who’s the best boyfriend, or who most respects women, or who isn’t a misogynist. And also like the Oscars, sometimes people who have personal issues — even reprehensible ones — are recognized by their industry colleagues for their work. Drug addicts. Alcoholics. Narcissists. And yes, men who hit their girlfriends.
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The other day I was grumping to my colleague Ray Pride about how I needed something to stir a fire in me to write about. Usually a stroll through my Twitter and Facebook feeds and my routine pit stops through my morning bookmarks is good way to shift my writing mode into gear, but I had this wicked post-Sundance head cold and my head felt all stuffed with cotton and I couldn’t think straight. I had a ton I needed to be working on, so my inability to churn through said fog-headedness and just get stuff done was stressing me out and making me anxious. And then I started obsessing about whether this was just a cold-induced writing block, or a gods-honest writing block that would mentally cripple me, rendering me unable to finish anything ever again, including this screenplay I’m eyeballs-deep in. When I’m anxious, I want a cigarette, but too bad for me — I quit smoking three weeks ago, so I couldn’t lean on a nicotine crutch, either. In short, I probably wasn’t a lot of fun to be around for a few days there. Sorry, family.
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The internet is all in a tizzy today over the Susan G. Komen Foundation cutting off a grant to Planned Parenthood. I don’t know why everyone is so shocked that an organization founded by a major GOP supporter would have an agenda around not supporting a pro-choice organization. It’s not like Komen CEO Nancy G. Brinker has exactly been hiding her GOP light under a faux-liberal bushel or anything.
Thankfully, Planned Parenthood has already very nearly made up what they lost from the grant, which came from an organization they shouldn’t have been working with to begin with. And frankly I think it’s better in the long run that people support the work Planned Parenthood does directly anyhow; donate directly to the causes you support, and know what they stand for.
But if you are pro-choice and you’ve been donating to Komen because you think that organization is all about being pro-woman? Do your research, and then donate your time and money elsewhere. And while you’re at it, take all the money you’d have spent on glittery feather boas and pink cowboy hats and hot pink leggings and what have you, and donate THAT directly to an organization involved in researching something useful, like the environmental causes of breast cancer. Or directly to your local Gilda’s Club. Or to your local hospital’s support group for Stage 4 breast cancer patients.
In the wake of all this brouhaha over Komen, though, I thought it might be interesting to revisit the film Pink Ribbons, Inc., which I saw at Toronto last year. In case you missed it then, here’s an email interview I did as a follow-up to that film with breast cancer activist Barbara Brenner, who was not what we might call a fan of the pink ribbon to begin with. She had some fascinating things to say; here’s an excerpt:
What you found about Komen’s focus of grant funding reflects who they are, and have always been. They have not funded environmental research. They recently gave a grant to the federal Institute of Medicine to review the information on environmental links, but that is basically a literature review, not new research. And the information Komen provides about environmental links on their website is often flat out wrong. Komen can’t get involved in environmental research in a serious way, in my view, because they are partnered with so many companies that are part of the problem. That they don’t tell anyone how they decide what to fund is a sad commentary on breast cancer research.
And here’s the review of Pink Ribbons, Inc. that I wrote from TIFF:
Pink Ribbons, Inc.
This weekend, my neighborhood was filled with a parade of women (and a few men), bedecked in pink, cheerily walking for hours and hours in support of breast cancer research. At rest stations along the way, husbands banged on pink tambourines while wearing coconut bras, while moms and preschoolers waved posters bearing motivational slogans (“Go, walkers! You are the BREAST!” and “Hakuna My Ta-tas!” and the like).
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My Sundance pace finally caught up with me, knocking me pretty much flat for a couple days, but here’s the last bit of my Sundance coverage this year. For me, this year was what my great-grandma would have called a “fair to middlin’” sort of Sundance. In other words, there were plenty of films that were decently good, or at least mostly harmless, but an awful lot of them were safe, what many of us have come to think of as “made for Sundance” material.
There were a few standouts: Safety Not Guaranteed had a warmth and depth that went far beyond what it seemed to be on its humorous surface, and featured a far more complex and interesting performance than we’ve seen from Mark Duplass in the past. Could he be one of those actors known for comedic work, who ends up being most intriguing when he’s working in the darker corners of the human psyche? I think he just might. Compliance was brilliantly edgy and uncomfortable and real in a way that Shame wanted to be but wasn’t, quite; For Ellen was a deceptively simple character study executed with patience and painterly beauty.
And then there was Beasts of the Southern Wild – either the miracle of the fest or the most miraculously over-hyped, depending on who you ask. For me this film fell squarely into the realm of the remarkable; in spite of some flaws in its execution, its creative scope was far beyond the way most newer filmmakers even dare to dream, and its ambition was impressive. Filmmaker Behn Zeitlin could be a flash in the pan, sure … but when did we last see a filmmaker coming of the independent film circuit with this kind of fantastical vision? Beasts of the Southern Wild was, for me, good cinematic storytelling on its own, but it’s most interesting for what it foretells about what this filmmaker might do in the future. For that alone, it was one of the most exciting films of this year’s Sundance.
There tends to be more buzz about the US competition categories at Sundance, but very often the more interesting and challenging selections can be found in the other sections. Here’s a few to keep your eye out for.
Elena, Andrei Zvyagintsev
This lyrical, beautifully lit and shot poem of a film, which won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes in 2011, tells the story of Elena (Nadezhda Markina), a middle-aged woman comfortably ensconced in a marriage to a Vladimir (Andrey Smirnov), a wealthy, emotionally distant older man. Both Elena and Vladimir had adult children when they met; Vladimir rarely sees his rebellious daughter, and Elena’s son cannot support his family and is always hitting her up for money. Within their marriage, Elena’s role is more that of caregiver and companion than lover and life partner. It’s a compromise she seems to have accepted – until her husband, after a heart attack scare, has a briefly touching reunion with his estranged daughter and decides impulsively to change his will to leave almost everything to her.
Elena, who desperately wants to help her underachieving, slacker adult son, and pay the fee to get her equally underachieving grandson into university so he doesn’t have to go into military service, suddenly finds herself facing a desperate choice, and this seemingly docile wife reveals a determination belied by her earlier complacent ease. Zvyagintsev’s taut, controlled direction maintains tension without being overly manipulative, and the sound design, which augments every drip of water, chirp of bird, footstep on hardwood floor, effectively heightens our sense of being in the moment, watching what unfolds.
Father’s Chair, Luciano Moura
Still photographer Luciano Moura makes his feature debut in this gorgeously composed film that turns the coming-of-age tale on its head, by showing us the journey of a runaway teenage boy through the eyes of his father, who’s desperately trying to find him. We meet Theo (Wagner Moura, in a terrific performance), a well-to-do doctor whose marriage to his wife has fallen apart as both of them have focused on their careers, as his 14-year-old son disappears on an adopted horse, leaving behind a trail of clues as to his whereabouts and two parents suddenly reunited in their overriding concern for their son’s well-being. Theo’s journey to find his son finds him learning about the young man his son has grown to be, and forces him to confront some long-held beliefs about his own life.
28 Hotel Rooms
One of the genuine surprises of the fest for me. I ended up seeing 28 Hotel Rooms by happenstance, when a ticket for the screening I’d planned to attend failed to materialize. The publicist for 28 Hotel Rooms had reached out a couple days earlier, and with a sudden hole in my schedule I decided to check it out – and I was glad I did. Chris Messina and Marin Ireland play a pair of business travelers who hook up for what both of them think will be a one-night stand. Their attraction to each other proves intense, though, and the two sustain an sporadic union of sorts, played out over brief one or two day dalliances over months and years, through their other relationships and respective marriages, until they finally start to realize that it’s the relationship they have with each other that really may be the most permanent one of all.
Heartfelt performances by Messina and Ireland carry the film, which relies wholly on these two people and the snippets we see of them in these brief moments when their lives intersect to make us care about what becomes of their relationship. Direction by first-time writer/director Matt Ross is exceptionally well-constructed; this isn’t the easiest conceit to pull off and make it work without boring your audience, but he does so quite nicely. The program description made this sound like a film about 28 nights of indiscriminate hotel sex, but it’s really not. There’s sex in there, yes, but the focus of this film is on these two people, why they’re drawn to each other in spite of their differences, and what about each of them keeps their relationship as it is.
An adaptation of a classic work of literature might not seem like the logical place for an award-winning writer-director of original films to head next. But Andrea Arnold’s striking interpretation of Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë’s singular masterpiece of obsession and unrequited love, is so starkly vivid and visually strong that it’s clear for that for Arnold, who works in realism, delving into the muck and mire of the Yorkshire moors is a very comfortable place to be. And really, it’s not that far a stretch from Arnold’s previous works, when you get down to it. Arnold’s Oscar-winning short film Wasp and features Red Road and Fish Tank, which won the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2006 and 2009, respectively, are set in run-down housing projects, with characters who could be said to be outsiders of a sort, each in their own way.
Arnold shifts the perspective of the novel away from Nelly Dean, the storyteller, and Lockwood, the rapt listener, by truncating the tale to focus almost entirely on the relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff. This shift of perspective is subtle but important; as a literary device, the entire tale is filtered first through Nelly Dean’s perspective as a storyteller, a gossip, and a lover of stories herself, and then through Lockwood’s own class biases as he listens to the tale; this greatly affects how the events are interpreted. In other words, where the book never attempts objectivity because the tale being told is clearly an embellished one, here there is no observer within the story itself, leaving us to interpret the events as if they are, in fact, objective truths within the world of the story.
For me, this didn’t quite work because without Nelly Dean’s embellishment and romanticizing, Cathy feels even less sympathetic in that she comes across as caring solely about money and security rather than love (true enough), while Heathcliff seems to be always just stomping around glaring angrily, slamming doors, and being generally ungrateful and recalcitrant without the sympathetic glean of Nelly Dean’s interpretation of events adorning them. Without Nelly’s lens to focus the tale, we have two characters who aren’t, in and of themselves, greatly likable; thus this adaptation becomes more an observation of events than a tragedy in which we come to feel significantly invested.
Nonethless, the issues of class and love that seem to drive much of Arnold’s work are very present. Here, Wuthering Heights, where the younger Cathy and Heathcliff (Shannon Beer and Solomon Glave, both terrific) roam, play and love freely and wildly on the moors is contrasted vividly with the more genteel Thrushcross Grange, where Edgar Linton ( James Northcote) will offer Cathy wealth and security, if not Heathcliff’s fiery passion and unending angst. The class differences in Wuthering Heights, emphasized not only by the physical aspects of Wuthering Heights verus Thrushcross Grange, but by the difference in the way dark-skinned Heathcliff is treated by Cathy’s father (the respect and kindness of benevolent charity), by her brother Hindley (the rage and anger inflicted by the usurped upon the perceived usurper), by Edgar Linton (master and servant) and by Cathy herself (love and its flipside, cruelty), all call upon themes that underscore much of Arnold’s work in more modern settings.
Visually, Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights is stunningly beautiful, with desolate frames of windy moors, and the most realistic depiction of the sanitary conditions of its time since, perhaps, Tom Tywker’s Perfume. You can practically feel the chill, damp wind blowing you nearly sideways, the muck of the mud holding fast to your shoes with every step. Sound, too, is excellently used in augmenting the storytelling and creating a sense of time and place. But when we get to older Cathy and Heathcliff ( Kaya Scoldelario and James Howson), somehow we lose much of the passion that underlies the tale; the fire that smolders in Heathcliff’s breast, this ancient, destructive love , Heathcliff’s unrelenting fierce anger at being denied what he wants even after overcoming a lifetime of servitude and indignities, are played up by Nelly Dean’s sympathetic perspective, and that element is missing here. Arnold’s version of Wuthering Heights is certainly the most visually stunning of the film versions of this tale, but from a literary standpoint, Cathy and Heathcliff need Nelly Dean to soften them up a bit and make them more palatable.