Friday, May 8

Far From The Madding Crowd

Far From The Madding Crowd
Dir: Thomas Vinterberg
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom Sturridge, Michael Sheen, Juno Temple, and Jessica Barden

Thomas Hardy crafted the literary classic “Far From The Madding Crowd” in 1874. The first film version of the novel was brought to the screen by director John Schlesinger in 1967 and starred Julie Christie as the strong willed and passionate picture of feminine independence, Bathsheba Everdene. Updated again by director Thomas Vinterberg, who last helmed the exceptional film “The Hunt”, and Hardy’s story of a restricted world and the decisions and complications of life and love comes to adoring life behind the exceptionally skills of actress Carey Mulligan and a director who understands how to balance superficial romanticism, period charm, and melodrama into a film that is far more interesting than it might look.

Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) is a poised, proper, and determined woman who wants to live a life under on her own free willed guidance. Society in Victorian England however has other impressions of how a woman should be, which is basically living a life without much personal freedom while being forced into the established structures of societal expectation and formal customs. Bathsheba’s life begins to change after an inheritance comes her way, however not before she meets a farmer named Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts) who has an unquestionable passion for her. Bathsheba comes to be the owner of her own farm. Mr. Oak comes to work for her, a wealthy farm owner is in want of a wife, and a soldier mourning lost love stumbles upon her property; these men further complicate the life Bathsheba is trying to forge for herself.

Bathsheba Everdene is a picture of confidence and power at a time when woman where restricted to lives established and influenced by the decisions of men. Bathsheba is a female character that admires love but not at the expense of the responsibilities and ambitions that drive her pursuit of personal control.  Her direct and impatient nature is somewhat quieted by her kind and honorable character. She is unique and the men who meet her clearly find these attributes attractive. Vinterberg builds on these characteristics throughout, turning Bathsheba into an enigma of sorts when she is proposed with offers from the opposite sex. It’s surprisingly charming and comedic considering the morbid source material. In many ways it becomes similar to the best-composed romantic comedies today, offering a laid-back and enjoyable quality. Whether in scenes where Bathsheba shrewdly thwarts the propositions of her male suitors, some directly asking for her hand in marriage, or in scenes where she struggles with the indecisions of which man she should choose. This prospect of choice is one the narrative utilizes cleverly, trudging Bathsheba through bad choices and restarting the spinning wheel of choice for another path. While this works for most of the film, there are moments when it undermines the keen sensibilities established to the character in the beginning.

 The pleasing aesthetic, costumes and sets, and the beautiful photography, the glow of fading sunsets and vibrant landscapes, fill every frame. The cast is great, especially Carey Mulligan who makes Bathsheba strong, thoughtful, and enchanting. Matthias Schoenaerts establishes Mr. Oak as a deeply passionate character in unwavering pursuit of love. Thomas Vinterberg and screenwriter David Nicholls turn what could have been a tedious period drama into a buoyant romantic comedy that will undeniably garner its fair share of final act swoons for Bathsheba and the choice in love she ultimately makes.

Monte’s Rating

4.00 out of 5.00

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