Two Perspectives on Andrea Arnold’s ‘Wuthering Heights’

Andrea Arnold’s wonderful 2011 adaptation of Emily Brontë’s novel begins its one-week engagement at the Nuart Theatre today.

Tree branches batting against a window. Clouds gathering for rain. A boy leaning in to smell a girl’s hair. The rhythm of horseback riding. Children running through a field. A fleeting gaze of desire. These are all shots that stuck with me throughout and after Wuthering Heights. This has less to do with the aesthetic pleasure of their construction—of which there is plenty—than how director/cowriter Andrea Arnold and her filmmaking team stir our various senses in the narrative. I find myself incredibly drawn to the film’s employment of the camera, its ability to capture beauty in the landscapes as well as complexities in the characters.

Wuthering Heights is probably the best adaptation you’ll see all year. I’m not saying that because it follows every facet of Brontë’s novel to a T; if that’s what you expect out of an adaptation, you’re probably better off waiting for a three-part film of a 300-page novel (oh wait, that’s The Hobbit.). Rather, it’s a fully cinematic evocation, one that runs so deep you’re likely to forget it was a book in the first place. Eschewing all literary pretenses so tantamount to most films adapted from esteemed novels—for instance, voiceover narration and static, lush cinematography—this Wuthering Heights is muted, subjective, and painful.

The phrase “overwhelmingly sensual” entered the conversation I had about the film with a group of colleagues after a special advance screening at Westwood’s Billy Wilder Theater last weekend. This unmistakable sensual quality emerges through the camera, and I cannot help but continue to try and explore how the cinematography accomplishes this. Atmosphere is carefully considered: landscape shots and production design alternately invoke richness and sparseness. It is just as easy to feel in awe of the fog rolling over the impossibly green hills as it is to feel struck by the creakiness and claustrophobia of the country home. The camera often travels with the characters in a given scene, but it cuts in to focus on intimate details. The slow pace of the film, which builds carefully across scenes and acts, creates a feeling of being absorbed in both the characters’ perspectives and the beauty surrounding them.

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Review: ‘Killer Joe’

Matthew McConaughey

When Matthew McConaughey first struts into Killer Joe as the titular renegade-detective-for-hire, the editing dissects him as a carefully composed individual. Close-ups on various parts of his ensemble compartmentalize him, including the obligatory but encapsulating wide-brimmed hat. Long and black, it can consume and mask Joe’s face in the kind of shadow that comes to reign metaphorically over the film as a whole. Killer Joe is a darkly comic crime saga of dumb, unlikable people doing horrible things to each other; it’s a succulent bit of Southern shlock that affords plenty of opportunity for director William Friedkin and his talented cast to show just how hideous they can get. It’s more fun than it has any right to be, if you don’t mind despising every character on the screen.

Killer Joe is Friedkin’s second collaboration with playwright Tracy Letts, who penned the play the movie is adapted from as well as the screenplay for Friedkin’s 2007 film Bug. While Killer Joe is tonally different from that reality-questioning psychological thriller, it is similar in its claustrophobia, its lingering sense of evil, and its grounding in pulpy narratives driven by actors navigating the space between completely serious and mentally unhinged. After this second collaboration Friedkin and Letts feel like kindred spirits, respecting each other’s craft while bringing out the best in each other. Continue reading “Review: ‘Killer Joe’” »