Recently I mentioned the American director who’d had enough of staging safe, dull British theatre here in London, and how he is planning to leave for Paris. Now comes news that the BBC and Film4′s next big film projects are going to be…’Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Jane Eyre’. It seems incredible that just when more and more writers are finding themselves unable to get published, when fewer and fewer good films are coming from the UK, the same old stories are being dragged out and dusted off for the edification of a disinterested public.
‘Wuthering Heights’ is being made by the company that brought us the stupifyingly dull ‘Nowhere Boy’ (nicknamed ‘No-one Saw’ in our office) and is helmed by Andrea Arnold, director of the cliche-riddled tower block miseryfest ‘Fish Tank’. Christine Langan, the head of BBC Films, acknowledged that revisiting classics is a fraught business. “There will be people saying, ‘Why the hell are they doing that all over again?’.”
In The Times today she appears to not to answer her own question. The answer, Christine, is that a combination of creative bankruptcy, lack of vision, fear of the new, playing safe, and a middle-class desire to spoon-feed Englishness to the masses forces our film institutions to regurgitate books that weren’t really very good in the first place back on our screens a century and a half later.
The picture shows ‘The Semaphore Wuthering Heights’ from Monty Python, a joke made forty years ago about the BBC’s milking of classics.