Far from the Madding Crowd, 2015.
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg.
Starring Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple and Jessica Barden.
In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer; Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor.
Many from the UK remember studying Far from the Madding Crowd and having to sit through the tedium of the 1967 version, but now there is a saviour in Thomas Vinterberg’s beautifully shot and adapted version. Set in Victorian England, the story follows Bathsheba Everdene (Mulligan) as she attempts to remain an independent woman, but ultimately succumbs to the folly of love and obsession. Although in modern terms the story seems like a cliché, Hardy’s novel was one of the first to feature a strong independent woman and it is still a story that is relevant today.
Carey Mulligan is perfectly suited to the role of Bathsheba. She is portrays both the strong woman and the love sick giggling fool extremely well and she is able to carry the film extremely well. All of the performances throughout the film are fantastic with Michael Sheen as Mr Boldwood being a particular standout. He manages to encapsulate the perfect amount of sympathy from the audience and he never comes across as being needy or desperate. He is simply a lonely man, besotted with a woman he can never have. Similarly Tom Sturridge as the fanciful Sergeant Troy is spot on from his knife work seduction through to his hideous moustache. Matthias Schoenaerts as Farmer Oak is more of a quiet presence on the screen but he is a good match for Mulligan and their scenes together are engaging to watch.
Whilst Far from the Madding Crowd is a by the numbers adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel, it is Vinterberg’s direction which makes it stand out from your standard period drama. With the colours changing as Bathsheba meets each man through to the exquisitely shot scenery that Hardy described so vividly – it is simply a beautiful film to behold. When Bathsheba has her first rendezvous with Sergeant Troy, the scene is filmed almost in a heightened dream state with vivid colours surrounding the characters and the soft lighting adding to the fantasy. Juxtaposed against this are the more pallid colours in the scenes between Bathsheba and Mr Boldwood.
Far from the Madding Crowd doesn’t offer anything new to film goers. Those who enjoy the book will find that it is a faithful adaptation, but it doesn’t offer anything new to the story. Bathsheba’s main line of “It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs” is at the heart of this film and it is a message which transcends the page onto the screen. At a brisk 2 hours, the film moves along extremely quickly and there are a few characters and storylines that are edited, but this doesn’t detract from an enjoyable, but average period drama.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Helen Murdoch is a freelance writer – Follow me on Twitter