Wuthering Heights (2011) and the uncanny connection with nature

The following film stills represent a collection of brief moments providing a glimpse of the haunting, alluringly grim aesthetic of Wuthering Heights (2011), directed by Andrea Arnold. The film is a moody, visceral, atmospheric cinematic version of the story featuring the natural beauty and intensity of Kaya Scodelario as Cathy and her ineffable connection with Heathcliff, both of them sharing a deep bond with the gloomy, bleak, foggy surroundings.

The scenery is dark and as chaotic and turbulent as the compelling cinematography of the film. The atmospheric sounds are intense and loud. From the very beginning, the sound makes us anticipate the eerie human-nature connection. A grown-up Heathcliff wanders around thoughtfully in an empty room, in what appears to be an abandoned house. We can hear the loud wind from outside, as well as the cracking sounds of the doors and the floor. There is something eerie about the location and the unfolding of this initial scene. It looks and sounds as if it could be a house from a horror film. When the branches of a tree hit the window, it reminds us of the scene from the book in which Mr. Lockwood breaks the window to make the tapping stop. In the film, Heathcliff runs against the wall and ends up collapsing on the floor. After he starts crying, we hear four blows on the window, followed by Heathcliff’s matching response: hitting the floor four times while crying in despair. Then, we hear the impetuous rain and the powerful wind followed by the loud bark of the dogs. The wuthering sound remains constant. Heathcliff remains behind and is barked at by a dog, to which he responds with a savage snarl that implies his wild nature.

The chemistry between young Heathcliff and Cathy seems to be quite unusual: it is not represented through words, but mainly through looks, gestures, and, symbolically, through the agitation of the natural elements on the moors. Their bond is closely intertwined with the human-nature bond. The point-of-view shots showing Cathy’s wild hair blown in the wind are followed by shots of the wild, high grass and weeds, suggesting a correlation between the aspect of her messy hair and the chaotic movement of the plants. Even though Heathcliff showed he was capable of speaking (despite being mostly uneducated), the two children rarely talk: it seems that there is an unspoken understanding between them or a sense of telepathy whilst they listen to the whistling of the wind and admire the haunting beauty of the landscape. The actors’ performances are very instinctive and have a visceral quality.

The environment provides refuge for Cathy and Heathcliff from the rest of the world. After their escape from the baptising moment, they start running on the windy, misty moors, happy and carefree. When they get back home, they are slapped by her father for their little rebellion. The film highlights metaphors for the conflict between culture and nature, culture trying to dominate nature, but failing, as nature does not succumb so easily.

During the playful yet tension-imbued mud fight scene, the two children bond with each other and with the earth at the same time. The playful exploration of childhood is essential in the film. Everything between them seems pure, simple, and physical when they are little. The moors become a symbol for their love affair that becomes more complicated as they grow up. What for the spectator might look like a bleak dystopian or threatening landscape, was actually Heathcliff’s Arcadia. When a grown-up Heathcliff returns after a long absence, it’s not only for his love, Cathy, but also for the place and time when he experienced that pure bliss. An idyllic image of unattainable splendour is engraved in his mind. Childhood often seems to reside in the realm of Arcadia in our minds, offering a unique way of feeling and experiencing things, which cannot be brought back or re-adopted.

The moors can also be associated with the dark brooding character of a lonely soul (Heathcliff): the moors are infertile, arid, wild, and even threatening. They are not supposed to be cultivated. They are untouched, uninfluenced by culture. Healthcliff is wild in the traditional way which implies unfitness for civil society, yet he is also wild in the modern use of the word, in that he signifies an antidote to hypercivilisation. The concept of wildness denotes something that is shared between humans and nonhuman entities. There are various examples of how this refers to Heathcliff: consider any scene where young Heathcliff resonates with the natural elements.

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Review: Mira Nedyalkova’s underwater photography

A selection of artworks from the stunning, eerie underwater photography collection by Bulgarian visual artist and fine art photographer Mira Nedyalkova.

Mira’s work depicts the beautiful facets of pain and sadness in fluid forms, whilst linking water with eroticism, as well as exploring the erotic in the light of the emotional and the aesthetic.

Water symbolism always makes us think of regeneration, purification, and catharsis – a reflection of the beginning and the end. Mira emphasises the dual dimension of water, symbolising sin and purity, as well as pleasure and innocence. The aquatic element has both generative and destructive powers; it can be life-giving and apocalyptic. Her models are depicted as otherworldly beings, seemingly frail, yet also dark and enigmatic. Water is also the essential element contributing to the surreal aesthetic of the pictures, since it changes the light, colour, and shapes in unexpected ways.

Mira Nedyalkova is, admittedly, not very interested in pure photography – as opposed to many photographers who praise raw analogue photographs for capturing unaltered moments, she recognises the creative and transformative power of post-processing and digital editing as a way of enriching photography, of creating something new, conveying an emotion, and telling a story. As a former painter, she now sees digital editing as a way of getting closer to painting again- digital painting.

 

Like many artists, Mira believes emotion is an essential part of a remarkable piece of art. Her view is epitomised in her stunning and memorable photographs, which often depict expressive, intense characters, as well as captivity, nudity, nature, fragile-looking animals, and subtle sexuality.

 

Review: Laura Makabresku’s dark fairy tales

fine-art-photographers-review-dark-fairytale-crow-uncannyPolish self-taught fine art photographer Kamila Kansy, known as Laura Makabresku, draws inspiration from her deep, intimate connection to her native land – which she perceives as a mysterious realm of sinister fairy tales, in order to design a tragic world revolving around death, obscure eroticism, suffering, and human frailty. The suggestive name of her artistic identity conjures up the darkness portrayed in her haunting photographs which seem to reflect the Freudian uncanny through their eerie and strangely familiar quality.

 

Stepping away from digital cameras, she embraces the analogue practice and a soft painterly style with dark undertones. To create a gloomy, glacial, and morbid atmosphere, the colours used are often desaturated dark blue and green and the photographs are intentionally underexposed. Some photographs adopt the technique of superimposition to achieve a ghostly aesthetic and induce the impression that there is always something morbid looming within the frame – a dormant presence about to be unleashed.

 

 

Her visual imagery can be compared to a dream: it has multiple layers, inviting the observer to begin an internal exploration. Her pictures should not only be admired aesthetically, but also felt from within. The shots are like collections of impulses, raw emotions, objects filled with hidden symbolism displayed in a beautifully chaotic, surreal manner which often involves strikingly unexpected combinations of elements such as dead animals, naked bodies, blood, knives, ants amplified in size, ravens pictured indoors, and human bodies with animal masks.

 

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Influenced by Francesca Woodman, her black and white portraits of the naked female body convey a duality between the calm, beautiful, graceful vulnerability and simplicity of the nude body sight and the undertones of death, darkness, emptiness, isolation, and dark sexuality. Through self-portraits, she embraces her fears and anguish and explores themes like autopsy, witchcraft, love, and a deep connection with animals, mortality, and the evil that lurks within her. The universe she creates makes the viewers look within and be inspired to embrace their own dark instincts and fantasies.

 

 

A fairytale sentiment

I have experienced it while watching Valerie and Her week of Wonders at Hyde Park cinema, listening to Alcest, or simply waking up in the morning feeling rays of light caressing my face through Venetian blinds and fences. At times it is something outside me that triggers this inner feeling, other times it comes wholly from within. It is similar to what Proust describes in his Madeleine cake epiphany. I have tried to explain it to myself and to others many times before, and yet I can never encompass its essence. It is so elusive, that is its charm. Whenever it happens, I try to keep hold of it, never let it go, I try to re-live those moments, feel their texture, their intoxicating effect on my mind, their infantile freshness. In such moments and the ones that follow, I feel spiritually aware. A temporary rebirth, eventually replaced by my less magical self. The magical one is carefree, lighthearted, pleasantly lightheaded, yet fully awake. The world traveled is beyond language.
Back to reality, everything is a game of words. Everything in this world. Even within oneself, everything is mediated through language, including one’s relationship with oneself.
That fairy tale sentiment happened at home recently: it was the sound of a metallic colourful glimmer, followed by its image projected in a haze in my head. And then by all the veils lifted up, exposing my heart. A moment of epiphany, but also mystery. What was revealed and what was concealed? Indeed, it was strangely familiar. Familiarly strange. Was that a dream, or is everything else?

Vision of the uncanny

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These photographs are part of the Uncanny series.


I’ve felt an urge to make things historically dark and more abstract- having something to do with Duane Michals, Francesca Woodman and the photo-novel of La Jetée, and more strongly with a long inner conflict about whether colour sometimes takes away from the intensity and the visceral experience of a photograph.
Now that I finished my degree, I decided to focus more on photos individually, rather than as fragments that are going to be part of a straightforward greater narrative. By this, I mean the photograph needs to convey more on its own as well, when it comes to both aesthetic and concept.
No longer pressured by deadlines, spontaneous moments of inspiration can take over.

Of course, I will still occasionally post photographs documenting beautiful objects and places during explorations, which I am afraid will be scarcer than other times due to significant commitments until January or February.

Nature and femininity: uncanny

Our life was sometimes filled with adventures, running and hiding in the woods, and laughter. Other times, with meditations on art, history, and our place in the universe. There was nothing we could not share between us. Our bond always seemed to have a cosmic strength. Sometimes we did things simply because they were forbidden to us. Children used to do that all the time, I kept telling myself.

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Part of the Uncanny project.

Concept: A woman from the past reaches out to a contemporary girl, sharing the story of her life in fragments and by guiding the girl on a path of re-living her past sensory experiences. Her tragic fear is that of memories vanishing, of losing traces of her significant other’s existence after his death, and at the same time, of being forgotten. Janey follows the traces of this 50’s apparition who transcends temporality, and the connection between them grows as their selves start merging.

The suffering of the ancient

She awakened only to realise that the echoes of the past were still there. She got up and ran towards the end of the hallway, where she used to tell jokes and laugh with her sisters. The statues were staring at her, from both sides, from above, through hollow, yet somehow luminous eyes. These eyes, both demonic and divine, had been following her every move ever since she was left alone in the house, years ago – centuries ago in her mind. She never knew their verdict. She found herself in front of the back door, never the front door, never on the way out. The garlic was hanging above the door as ever, next to the artificial withered-looking flowers. She never understood why the lord insisted upon keeping such strange, unwelcoming decorations. They used to have many unpleasant visitors lurking around the house indeed, but they were the kind that fed upon her happiness, not upon blood. And the flowers… what was the point? Artificial flowers looking withered – how peculiar!

There it was. The garden where they dwell. Their souls were entrapped in the past – they succumbed to a dreadful repetition of agony; an eternal reenactment of their fate. There was something tragic about the way in which they were displayed: each in their own place, yet all bound by the obligation to keep the Show going beyond time. Like pieces of a living puzzle, or fragments of a graphic novel, or carvings in the Cave of the Making, each depicted one sad episode. They were surrounded by glittering blues – portals through which M. could relive the suffering of the ancient.