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TIFF: Wuthering Heights Directed by Andrea Arnold and In Darkness Directed by Agnieszka Holland

TIFF: Wuthering Heights Directed by Andrea Arnold and In Darkness Directed by Agnieszka Holland

There is no denying that Andrea Arnold is one of the most interesting and provocative directors working today. If you haven’t seen her first two films Red Road and Fish Tank you have missed two very good films. Her third Wuthering Heights premiered last week at the Venice Film Festival to very good notices. I caught it yesterday in Toronto and was surprisingly left underwhelmed.

Arnold takes a bold approach to the film and adds another whole layer to the story by making Heathcliff black throwing the race card into the piece. And she layers the film with lots of imagery of birds and butterflies flying to freedom, yet there are way too many images of trees shaking in the wind. I never felt that Arnold was a self-indulgent director before this film, I felt her films were beautiful because they were raw, because they were real.

Not this time. I give Arnold major props for directing rookie actors and for discovering new talent. She directed Michael Fassbender in Fish Tank before he exploded as a big star and you could see even then the talent this guy had. I’m still glad to have seen the film and I am still a great fan of Arnold’s even though this wasn’t my favorite film of hers.

Academy Award wining director of Europa Europa Agnieszka Holland returns to familiar ground with another look at the Holocaust with In Darkness, the true story of a Polish sewer worker who saved 8 Jews by hiding them in the sewers below Lvov, Poland during the last days of the Nazi regime.

It’s not going out on a limb to say that the Holocaust has mostly been told by men. This harrowing story is literally a film told in the shadows and explores the deep human connection that developed between the survivors and Leopold Socha a man who started the story as a petty thief trying to make some money off the decimation of the Jews. The development of Socha into a truly righteous person as he was honored by Yad Vashem in Israel, shows a great display of humanity in a time where there were so many inhuman people pushing Socha in multiple directions. He didn’t start out as a good guy, but when he got to know the people he was hiding he realized that they were just like him and that it didn’t matter that they were Jews, they were people who deserved to live. And live they did and their survival enabled us to learn about the man who saved their lives. In this work just like in her previous films, Holland has proved she is a great storyteller and a top tier director.

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