Costume dramas are not my thing. That goes double when they’re staged with an epic sweep — true tests of patience and bladder resolve.
So there’s something admirable about directors tackling oft-adapted material with a decidedly different approach, which could account for two such pictures making many a critic’s 2012 best list: Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina and Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights.
Whereas Wright (Hanna) opted to turn Leo Tolstoy’s novel into a highly theatrical piece that artfully celebrates its artifice, Arnold (Fish Tank) took a bare-bones approach in bringing Emily Brontë’s tragedy back to the screen. And whereas Wright went showy, Arnold went earthy, in essence seeming to have given her film over to the elements.
Wuthering Heights screens Friday through Sunday at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, and when its love-struck characters run outdoors to the English countryside, we can hear the wind whipping in the mic; when they trot through the fog, we sense its dampness.
Arnold’s is a love story that finds intimacy by relishing in details. It’s a decades-in-the-making relationship between the beautiful Cathy (Kaya Scodelario, Clash of the Titans) and Heathcliff (newcomer James Howson), an African-American orphan rescued from the streets by Cathy’s family. Both actors realistically underplay a romance doomed by the times. It’s interesting how the mistreatment Heathcliff endures, both physically and verbally, mirrors that present in Django Unchained.
While Heights grows too languid for its own good, its stripped-down nature is a welcome respite from stiff-upper-lipdom. —Rod Lott