I prefer not to read reviews of films before I see them. In the case of Andrea Arnold’s latest film Wuthering heights a small amount of research would have saved me some embarrassment. As her visceral adaptation of the Emily Brontë novel opened I leapt from my seat to complain to the projectionist that the film was being incorrectly shown. It turns out, however, that the compressed aspect ratio is intentional, but in my confused state it merely added to what was a perplexing cinematic experience.
Elements of the film break new ground: her portrayal of Heathcliff as black intensifies a mood of cruelty and claustrophobia in nineteenth-century rural England. Yet the lack of continuity between her depiction of the characters jars: the older Cathy bears little resemblance to the younger whilst the older Heathcliff can’t match the magnetic presence of his younger self. The moorland landscape provides a relentlessly bleak backcloth to the emotional torment of the protagonists yet there are also moments of great tenderness and beauty. Despite its weaknesses this is a film of striking and enduring originality.