Don’t be put off by the black bars – we haven’t gone back in time – director Andrea Arnold has always favoured the 1.33:1 fullscreen aspect ratio, and, despite the stunning landscapes which, you would think, might lend themselves well to a broader more panoramic ratio, this TV-style format actually works surprisingly well, particularly in conjunction with Arnold’s gritty, up-close handheld camerawork. Indeed with its 1080p video presentation this latest incarnation of Wuthering Heights looks superb, the finest of details clear and apparent throughout the proceedings, from the beads of sweat, tears or rain cascading down the lead characters’ faces to the individual strands that comprise the beautiful feathers Catherine collects. Clothing textures are superb, and the moors themselves come alive with all the sumptuous close-up observation on offer here. The colour scheme further helps this effort, bringing out a surprising amount of vibrant colour within the moors themselves – deep, vivid greens and decadent purples, made yet more fantastical when juxtaposed with the dour general setting; the browns mud and grey sky, and the perpetually bad weather. Black levels are strong, and there is an expected level of suitably filmic grain pervading the piece. Overall this is an impressive presentation; just edging into demo quality, and surprisingly good considering the stylistic approach, the framing and the budgetary restrictions.
On the aural front the accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track does a stunning job at ramping up the immersive atmosphere, perfectly promoting the weather-dominated mix which makes up for a complete lack of score by creating its own out of the bracing natural elements. From the thrashing wind to the crashing downpour; there’s seldom a moment when the surrounds aren’t throwing things at you. Thunderstorms are perhaps the highlight, where the bass rumble adds some serious potency to the mix. Of course, although it’s almost the least important element, what little dialogue there is comes across clearly and coherently, mainly emanating from the fronts and centre channels. A few songs sung by the characters break up the weather-biased track, but you needn’t worry, even if they didn’t, this would still be a thoroughly engaging, fully-embracing, engulfing mix that makes you genuinely feel like you’re out there on the moors, with the elements raging all around you. Powerful.
Somewhat disappointingly, there’s absolutely nothing on the disc in terms of extras, except for a Gallery featuring a selection of excellent promotional photographs taken by Agatha A. Nitecka (samples from which adorn this review).
Daring in its approach to the source material, acclaimed Brit filmmaker Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights feels like a period film in name only. Whilst it stays true to the sentiments and substance of Bronte’s classic novel, and overtly maintains the period setting, its heart beats to a modern drum, and Arnold appears to have fashioned a classically-minded piece that will still speak to the modern generation – that still feels of some relevance – rather than just being another antiquated barrage of clichés from times gone by. Unfortunately, whilst she has admirably interpreted the emotional elements of the text as palpably rich weather-based symbolism, creating a fantastically atmospheric mood to pervade the piece, her free reign ultimately undermines the movie, drifting dangerously close to pretentious art-house work just for the sake of it, and feeling like it could have done with some judicious editing. It’s a great shame because, with a little tweaking, Arnold’s Heights could have no doubt maintained her trademark style without asking too much of her already patient audience members. The end result is still a strikingly atmospheric movie, which features some surprisingly strong performances not least because of the relative inexperience of the young cast, but also because of the comparative lack of actual dialogue that they get to work with. But it’s still a flawed – and perhaps even for some, fatally so – period drama, audacious in the originality of its ideas, but not wholly refined in terms of the final product.
On Region B-locked UK Blu-ray we get excellent video and truly atmospheric audio, and, although there are scant few extras, this is still an attractive package. Fans of the film shouldn’t be disappointed, although those who have been looking forward to this interpretation of Wuthering Heights may want to consider a rental first. It’s not the most refined film from Andrea Arnold, and whilst ‘Heights aficionados will definitely want to check it out, they may not necessarily want to make space for it in their collection.
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