Sunday, 15 November 2009
Let me introduce you to a small film. It had a quiet birth in cinemas in the 1980s and an even more sedate reception when it was finally re-released a few years ago. Jacques Rivette's Hurlevent is perhaps my favourite film from my thesis. In honour of me becoming a doctor this week, I want to offer an intimate and personal review of the baby of my thesis.
This is a French adaptation of Wuthering Heights by a director who was one of the founding members of French New Wave cinema. When I first heard of it four years ago, I was expecting a typical French New Wave film. It is not. It is quite apart from any other French New Wave films I've seen, and every other adaptation of Wuthering Heights.
This is the Wuthering Heights of my mind. Stark, uncomfortable, uncompromisingly honest, ascetic, and beautiful in its own violent way. I still remember the first time I saw it. Rivette doesn't need to invest in grandeur to depict beauty. Instead, he focuses on the contradictions of intimacy. The first thing you notice is the silence. There is hardly any dialogue or music. And when the music does come, it is all gypsy wailing. But perhaps what I love most about it, is that it is kind. Rivette painstakingly tries to depict women in ways that are not reductive or sweeping generalisations. This is indeed a rarity among New Wave directors.
I hope I've convinced you to see the film, if you haven't already done so ...