Review – FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD

still-of-matthias-schoenaerts-and-carey-mulligan-in-far-from-the-madding-crowd-(2015)-large-picture

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michal Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple
Directed by: Thomas Vinterberg
Cert: 12A Running Time: 119 minutes
Release Date: May 1st 2015

If you are despairing this week at the end of Poldark, you need worry not as Far From The Madding Crowd gallops romantically into cinemas this weekend, proving a worthy replacement. This sumptuous costume drama directed by Danish director and Dogme 95 founder Thomas Vinterberg will aptly fill the void.

A re-telling of Thomas Hardy’s classic novel first published in 1874, the film follows the adventures of Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) as she inherits her Uncle’s farm in Dorset. Previously a woman of no means, her inheritance elevates her to mistress of the manor and its surrounding lands, a highly unusual position for a woman. An independent free spirit, love comes calling in the shape of three very different suitors, a shepherd and farm hand Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), young soldier Sergeant Troy (Tom Sturridge) and wealthy middle-aged bachelor William Boldwood (Michael Sheen).

When we first meet Bathsheba she is in no need of a husband to complete her life. As she remarks when receiving a proposal of marriage, she would very much enjoy being a bride for a day if a husband wasn’t the prize at the end of it.

Carey Mulligan makes for a confident Bathsheba but like some of her suitors, always keeps the audience at arm’s length, never allowing us to be truly captivated. While she looks the part, her Bathsheba has her lid screwed on too tightly and while we are witness to the toil of her romantic life, we find ourselves siding with Gabriel throughout, hoping she will catch up and join the rest of us.

A man of few words, Matthias Schoenaerts’s Gabriel, makes his actions speak loudly and he not only shepherds her flock but is a guardian to her as her life begins to spiral out of control. Sturridge plays the caddish Troy well, oily and arrogant. Reeling from an earlier rejection with a local girl, he is hell bent on capturing Bathsheba’s heart. Michael Sheen also brings gravitas and heart to his lonely bachelor.

Director Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) has fashioned a cautionary tale about marriage. In Hardy’s time, a marriage proposal was made in the infancy of courtship so a union required a lot more than love to see it through. Social standing and fortune were imperative and Bathsheba’s reluctance to marry to the first man that asks is understandable.

With beautiful cinematography by Vinterberg regular Charlotte Bruus Christensen the sweeping meadows and grand houses of Dorset are gorgeously captured, the lens saturated with colour and beauty and the costumes by Oscar® nominated costume designer Janet Patterson are stunning.

A very modern heroine Bathsheba was also the inspiration for Suzanne Collins’ Katniss Everdene in The Hunger Games. It’s just a shame we don’t get as much fire from this one.

***

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