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Far from the Madding Crowd – Movie Review

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Far from the Madding Crowd (2015) – Movie Review by Frank L.

Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Writers: Thomas Hardy (novel), David Nicholls (screenplay)
Stars: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen

Thomas Hardy knew how to write gripping stories and Thomas Vinterberg (Festen 1998) directs sensitively this adaptation of the novel.  Hardy set the stories in “Wessex” which is an almost imaginary rural idyll which includes the most bucolic of English counties -Dorset. It has precipitous fields, dramatic sea cliffs and fine agricultural buildings. All combine to make an engaging backdrop in which to set a romantic tale.

The heroine is Bathsheba (Carey Mulligan) who as a beautiful young nineteenth century woman is unusual as she has the gumption to know how to run a farm with its attendant problems which she has inherited. She is an outsider in the all-male world of the agricultural mart in which she finds herself having to do business. Already she has had a romantic entanglement with a shepherd, the super handsome Gabriel (Matthias Schoenaerts) but he, after initial rejection, returns into her life. However she has been distracted by Sergeant Troy (Tom Sturridge) who is the classic cad, a first rate ne’er do well. Then there is the well-heeled but rather lonely neighbour Mr. Boldwood  (Martin Sheen) who throws his hat into the Bathsheba ring. It all makes for lively entertainment. Although there are quite a few unpleasant happenings in the plot, the overall effect is to glimpse a more comprehensible time of real people in a world which somehow was obliterated by the twentieth century. There is a warm glow over the entire proceedings.

Gabriel as played by Matthias Schoenaerts  and Mr. Boldwood as played by Michael Sheen are perfectly cast. Not so astute is Carey Milligan as Bathsheaba who although a fine actress, she somehow does not have the physical presence to make jaws drop. She lacks allure; she is not able physically to dominate the screen. The part of Bathsheba requires that. As Sergeant Troy (Tom Sturridge) did not convince. From the outset, he appeared to be a scumbag.

This is a beautifuly shot film. It is a delight to watch. Undoubtedly it has stiff competition from the earlier version (1967 directed by John Schlesinger with Julie Christie, Alan Bates, Peter Finch and Terence Stamp). But the story is one which can be told and retold. There is a warm glow of having watched something beautiful as the film comes to its conclusion.

 

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