Almost a cursed project
by Domenico La Porta
- Brit director Andrea Arnold talks about the reasons that motivated her to adapt Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights
After winning the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival for her previous two films – Red Road [+see also:
film profile] in 2006 and Fish Tank [+see also:
interview: Andrea Arnold
film profile] in 2009 – Brit director Andrea Arnold was honoured with a slot at the Venice International Film Festival, which selected her adaptation of Wuthering Heights [+see also:
interview: Andrea Arnold
film profile] in its official competition. She talks about the reasons that motivated this project which the audience didn’t expect to see her take on.
What was your aim in adapting a great classic of gothic literature? Did you wish to give your own interpretation of the novel?
Andrea Arnold: When I start a project, I don’t have a specific aim. A film is like a journey for me. I have a curiosity at the start and a desire to explore. As the journey is long, I learn a lot of things and they can be found in the film.
I let myself be guided by what happens. Of course, I wanted to respect the essence of the book, but this is my own understanding of the story and what it means for the characters. The novel is almost private; Emily Brontë wrote it for herself and not for a readership. I didn’t want to violate that intimacy, but rather create a new one.
The film has a particular approach to nature. Do you see the setting as a character in the film?
Nature is part of the film because living in such a wild area affects the characters, all their life. You can’t ignore it and that’s why I devote a large part of the film to it.
Why did you choose to go back in time after a film as modern as Fish Tank?
The book had a profound effect on me when I was 20. The idea came very spontaneously, as if by instinct. However, the project was much more difficult than expected. It was almost a cursed project. I didn’t give up despite the many obstacles to keep this instinctive desire. I didn’t choose to do a period film. This aspect was instead one of the complications.
Why did you cut out the whole of the second part of the novel?
The film would have lasted seven hours for the pure and simple reason that I like to pay attention to details. I thought that without the second part – which mainly revolves around the children – the film nonetheless told a complete story, that of Heathcliff.
Why did you keep the dialogues to a strict minimum?
Silence enables a heightening of feelings. This silence was very precious for the actors who were able to focus on their performance in a different, animal-like way. Body language is more important than words and I think this aspect is clear in the film.
Did you choose Kaya Scodelario on the basis of her role in the hit series Skins?
No. I’ve never seen the series, but once again I trusted my instinct the first time I met her. We didn’t do any audition. She was chosen on the basis of my first impression and I knew she’d be right for the role.