Those still with no direct experience of Wuthering Heights—novel, film and TV adaptations, Kate Bush song—are losing ground. With the Andrea Arnold-directed version, surely any protests on anti-period-film grounds will be silenced. For one thing, Arnold continues here to work with Robbie Ryan, who also shot her Red Road and Fish Tank, and the story progresses in the same blinking, immediate close-up bursts (which indies transatlantically try and mostly fail to achieve): the moors teeming with flying, crawling, mating creatures buzzing with an audibly thrumming, insectoid intelligence, of which Cathy (Shannon Beer, then Kaya Scodelario) and Heathcliff (Solomon Glave, then James Howson), as children, are perhaps just the most visible, articulate pair.
Which isn’t saying much. Cathy, while her devout father is alive, does as she pleases, and if she’s the only one who can communicate with the abandoned boy he brings home, it’s because they both speak little. Why bother, when the other senses experience the world more richly? There’s the tickle of the feathers Cathy collects, the taste of blood from the lash marks she licks on Heathcliff’s back. Like William Wyler directing Laurence Olivier, Arnold abridges the source material, concluding before the second generation of Lintons, Earnshaws and Heathcliffs commences suffering, but she marks a first in casting two blacks actors in the brooding lead. Of the Heathcliffs, the 14-year-old Glave, though literally sidelined much of the time, listening at doors which are locked to him, is the one to be believed. When Howson returns to revenge his abuse and Cathy’s final spurning, the moors cease to be a world; the single-minded passion—which is to say, obsession—of children is needed to animate the thing. There’s a scary gesture toward continuity as Hindley’s little son Hareton makes like his uncle of sorts and hangs small animals on posts to suffocate. The Heights are in haunted hands.