There few filmmakers out there whose work is as visceral as Andrea Arnold‘s. Her body of work is diverse as well, ranging from the bleak housing estates of “Red Road” and “Fish Tank” to the brooding moors of “Wuthering Heights” and the sun-dazzled highways of “American Honey.”
In her Fandor video essay “Andrea Arnold’s Women in Landscapes,” Jessica McGoff looks at the ways Arnold presents the loneliness of her female protagonists in different yet similarly affecting ways. First there’s the isolation of “Red Road,” in which the heroine, a CCTV security guard, is physically separated from the people and world that she watches so hungrily. In “Fish Tank,” the hyper teenaged heroine is framed centrally as though she were in a cage — a fitting visual device for a film that’s all about how young people can destroy themselves in trying to burst out of their surroundings. For “Wuthering Heights,” Arnold’s Cathy isn’t so separated from her environment but instead practically buried in it; cue clips of her tussling with Heathcliff in the mud and losing herself in the dense fog.
Sticking to on-screen text instead of narration, McGoff presents her thesis in short, bold lines of text, with key words highlighted. It’s a handy introduction to the idea of how Arnold handles the question of what loneliness looks like.
What’s missing from this essay, unfortunately, is any discussion of “American Honey.” Although Arnold’s latest was noted more for its sublime use of music than cinematography, her placement of the film’s runaway teenager in a kind of mock-epic travelogue across the American plains is just as critical to the story as in her earlier movies. Hopefully that’s a topic that another video essayist will tackle at length.