Andrea Arnold: I find my adaptation of Wuthering Heights 'hard to look at'
American Honey director tells Tribeca film festival that she was in ‘a dark place’ during production of her 2011 take on Emily Brontë’s classic romance
Tue 19 Apr 2016
Oscar-winning British director Andrea Arnold has said that she finds her acclaimed 2011 adaptation of Wuthering Heights a difficult film to enjoy.
The film-maker, who won the Academy award for best live-action short in 2005 for Wasp, spoke about Wuthering Heights during a discussion at this year’s Tribeca film festival.
“People keep saying one day I will come to like it,” she said. “It was a difficult experience making it, for various reasons. I find it hard to look at it.”
Arnold, who has also directed acclaimed dramas Red Road and Fish Tank, claims that her “pure and beautiful” vision of the novel was not what ultimately made it to the screen. She described “a misty moor on a day when the earth and sky are merging, and there’s a big animal climbing inside of the moor. But you went in and saw that it was a man, carrying rabbits on his back.”
But, she said, “When we got to film it, we had half an hour to get it before the day was over. It was bright sunshine and blue sky, and we had about three rabbits.”
Arnold was unhappy but still used the shot. “What can you do at that point?” she said. “You can’t because you’re working with a whole team of people and there’s money.”
She also added that it was a tough period for her off-screen as well. “It was a very difficult time for me, that film,” she said. “I was in a dark place. When I think about how it was, it’s associated with some personal stuff.”
Her take on Wuthering Heights was met with mostly positive reviews on release, with the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw calling it “exhilarating”.
The director also spoke about her new film American Honey, her first to be shot in the US. The drama, which stars Shia LaBeouf as part of a group of travelling magazine salespeople, will premiere in competition at this year’s Cannes film festival.
“I really do think I pushed it,” she said. “It was very tough, there were scenes when I had loads of non-actors and we were running out of time, and I thought, ‘I really don’t know how I’m going to get this done.’”
She was also surprised at what she discovered while filming in the US. “Some of the poverty in some of the places really shocked me,” she said. “It seemed more intense than Britain. There was a town I went through in the south – I did a lot of driving in the south, I loved the south – and I was quite upset by what I saw: closed factories and shops, huge poverty. I guess I didn’t know that, to the degree that I saw it. And drugs ... loads of drugs.”