Ostensibly an adaptation of the oft-filmed Wuthering Heights, Jacques Rivette’s Hurlevent (or Howling Wind, per the translation) feels more like a schematic indication of Emily Brontë’s famed novel, though that should not be taken as a criticism. This is one of Rivette’s most stripped down works; emotion is secondary to the film’s tight and taut surface (updated to the Cévennes countryside circa the 1930s) where passions flare imperceptibly and a romantic tragedy is performed as if preordained, though this is more than just Céline and Julie Go Boating’s haunted house melodrama played straight. Rivette’s characters are often held captive by the stage (whether real or imagined), so when Catherine (Fabienne Babe) and her farmhand lover Roch (Lucas Belvaux) run through the fields adjacent to an imposing stone homestead (one of the film’s two primary settings), there is a profound sense of meta liberation, of escape beyond the boundaries of narrative (the wind-strewn leaves of grass, counterpointed by the incantatory vocalizations of the Bulgarian choir Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, might very well be located in the empty margins of the Book of Life). Certain of Rivette’s weaker films assume a window-dressed Christian pose (anxiety of influence, I think, from Hitchcock and Rossellini, among others), but here the spiritual inquiry is entirely genuine. The three dream sequences that near-invisibly signal Hurlevent’s beginning, middle, and end are as much a holy trinity as they are a thematic backbone; the characters wake from these becalmed and psychologically penetrating visions into a nightmarish reality of Escher-like doorways and windows that lead them over a prolonged and circuitous path to destruction. Rivette never concretely illustrates the divide between mind and matter (the blink-of-an-eye passage of three years feels particularly apocalyptic in this context) and that allows him to have it both ways when, in Hurlevent’s finale, the spirit world quite literally breaches the real world, an action that manages to have repercussions at once miraculous, damning, and devastating.
- 130 min
- Jacques Rivette
- Pascal Bonitzer, Suzanne Schiffman, Jacques Rivette
- Fabienne Babe, Lucas Belvaux, Sandra Montaigu, Alice de Poncheville, Olivier Cruveiller, Philippe Morier-Genoud, Olivier Torres, Marie Jaoul, Louis de Menthon, Jacques Deleuze, Joseph Schilinger
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