The mystery with which Andrea Arnold's new Wuthering Heights adaption has been artfully concealed is both alluring and alarming. I try to remind myself that some of the best movies are those that don't over-commercialize and become masterpieces that slip under the radar; films that rely on quality rather than quantity. On the other hand, the lack of knowledge surrounding the film also makes me rather apprehensive.
There have been rumors (finally confirmed) that the movie will be appearing at the Venice Film Festival along with other movies I'm looking forward to such as David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method and Steve McQueen's Shame. As an extra treat to accompany this sudden announcement, someone in "high places" behind the film has decided that us fans are entitled to some knowledge as to how the film will look, even if it's only a little. They went about it artfully, however. We all know that the big "hullabaloo" surrounding this adaption of the novel is the man playing Heathcliff. There are people embracing, debating, and questioning the casting of an unknown black actor as one of the most famous (or should I say infamous?) literary heroes. Whoever was behind the advertising of this new adaption must have obviously known that because in our first screen cap of the movie, we don't get a picture of Kaya Scaledario as Cathy, but of James Howson's dark eyes cast to the ground.
There's not much one can conjecture from a scant picture. When releasing it, the company knew very well what they were doing. They want to torture us even more with the knowledge that we can't draw any conclusions based on this screen cap. There's nothing in the background to give us any clues as to the setting. There's no piercing stare given by the man playing Heathcliff to leave us with any idea as to how he can project the gloominess and torment of his character. I almost wished that the picture hadn't been released at all because now I pine for the movie even more.
I do like the idea of Heathcliff being black. Not only does it fit the description given in the novel (that people tend to overlook), but it also draws in a modern and more diverse audience. Whether the appeal to that new audience will be a blessing or a curse is yet to be determined. The fairly young (and inexperienced cast) could mean a fresh take to the novel, or it could mean a complete disregard for the traditional components.
With all this uncertainty, however, I remain completely optimistic. Why? Because it is Andrea Arnold, who has proved to be a great director. After her work with Fish Tank, I have no doubt of her ability to pull out a believable and intense take on Emily Bronte's masterpiece. Yes, we do see a new pull to the modern audience, but so far it seems as though Andrea is trying to balance that by committing to the words of the source material. She went roaming through the streets trying to find the man to play Heathcliff after sifting through countless big name actors and holding open auditions. If James Howson is the man she ended up choosing, then there must be something in him that hundreds of other actors didn't have. Andrea Arnold is a proven artist. I have faith in the fact that she would never allow the adaption of such a beloved novel to be taken lightly.
Bring on the comments!
oh..P.S: I found another picture of James Howson. Grant it, it's not from his role as Heathcliff, but at least it'll help us get more acquainted with his face. From what I've heard, people are arguing that Howson looks a little too "baby-faced" to play the glowering Heathcliff. I think this picture gives me a bit more optimism as too how he might pull off Heathcliff's intensity.