Sunday, October 21, 2012

Really Cranky at the Movies

The NEW YORKER rarely likes movies, and it didn't like the new remake of WUTHERING HEIGHTS.  Even rarer is that I, usually easier to satisfy than Anthony Lane or David Denby, downright hated this film.  Really.  A lot.

Emily Bronte's classic novel is chatty.  Nellie Dean, the moral center of the book, talks constantly, trying to get everyone else to behave.  They don't, of course, but in her scolding and their replies lie the means of understanding the depths of Bronte's characters.  Here, Nellie Dean has been reduced to a silent and much younger serving girl who has perhaps a half dozen, one-sentence speeches.  In fact, nobody has much dialogue.  England seems to consist of semi-mutes.  As a result, characters that in the novel are multi-layered, here become merely one-dimensional: Heathcliff is sullen, Hindley is bigoted, Cathy is shallow, Edgar is a wimp, Isabella is a twit.  Period.

In films without words, the images are important.  Here they are (1) shot in such low light that sometimes it's difficult to see who is even present, (2) shot in such close-up that a character is reduced to an arm or one side of a face, and rooms to a flagstone floor or the corner of a rough table -- in fact, I never did get any coherent view of any room at all in the farmhouse, (3) shot with such jerky motions of a hand-held camera that it looked THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, (4) shot through incessant rain, fog, or mist that blurred everything.  There can be more than one correct answer.

 Even when the weather cleared, there are only so many long, slow pans of the moors than a film can stand.  By the time the millionth one appeared, I was hoping for grass fires.  Or anything with some life.

Also, one hanging of a small dog may be justified--it's in the book, and we are getting a clear view of Heathcliff's rage.  The second hanging of a small dog is not in the book and represents gratuitous nastiness.

Finally, the movie--and this is NEVER announced--consists of only the first half of the novel.  It stops with Heathcliff's marriage to Isabella.  This means that nothing is resolved, none of the relationships are finished, we never get to see the more-or-less happy ending that Bronte wrote.  The film just stops.  When it ended with such unfinished abruptness, a person behind me said unbelievingly, "It's over?"

Her companion said, "Thank God!"


Jerome Stueart said...

Great review. Hoping for a grass fire is the film's new tagline for me.

qiihoskeh said...

Hilarious review. Actually, I never finished the book either, but I did get more than halfway.