Intense and edgy version of Bronte novel hits the heights

Shannon Beer as the young Cathy  in Wuthering Heights
Shannon Beer as the young Cathy in Wuthering Heights
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IN her first adaptation and period piece writer-director Andrea Arnold adopts pretty much the same approach to Wuthering Heights (Cert 15) as to her contemporary urban dramas, Red Road, Fish Tank.

It is intense and edgy, with hand-held camerawork giving it an immediacy, and employs the language of the streets, and yet it captures the essence of Emily Bronte’s novel.

Two crucial decisions make this Wuthering Heights something special. One is to make Heathcliff a young black boy and the second is to present the story almost entirely from his perspective from the moment he is brought to the isolated Yorkshire farmhouse by Mr Earnshaw to become part of his family as an act of Christian charity. It makes the character’s mysteriousness and alienation all the more credible and helps to explain the hostility to him by everyone, except the farmer’s daughter, Cathy.

With close-ups of wildlife and a non-musical soundtrack of sounds Arnold points up the sense of isolation and closeness to nature to bring a visceral quality to the story.

Unusually, the child actors (Sheffield’s Solomon Glave and Shannon Beer) outshine their adult counterparts (James Howson and Kaya Scodelario), but that is partly due to the fact the story becomes less interesting as it moves to its tragic conclusion (like most dramatisations the film ignores the later stages of the novel which doesn’t involve Cathy).

There is a strong sense of location too in The Awakening (Cert 15), a ghost story filmed at Lyme Park in the Peak District.

Soon after the First World War, history teacher Dominic West calls in author Rebecca Hall, a crusader against bogus psychics and mediums, to investigate rumours of ghostly sightings at his school following the death of a pupil.

She arrives at the end of term which means the only others remaining in the building are matron Imelda Staunton, handyman Joseph Mawle and one nervous pupil (Isaac Hempstead Wright) forced to spend the holidays in the dorms. It starts atmospherically and builds suspense but the revelations of the final 10 minutes strain credibility.