16 Jul 2015

Far From The Madding Crowd - film review

From At The Movies, 7:35 pm on 16 July 2015

A woman-led story more to my taste – possibly because the original, classic novel was written by a man - is the new version of Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd.

Far From The Madding Crowd was always going to suffer from comparisons with John Schlesinger’s 1960s film, with its perfect casting of Julie Christie as Bathsheba, torn between Mr Right – Alan Bates, Mr Wrong – Terence Stamp, and Mr Father Figure – Peter Finch.

In this version Carey Mulligan is terrific as the young woman who inherits a farm, and spends the rest of the film looking for someone worthy to share it – and her.

Carey Mulligan is the best actress of her generation. Her co-stars though are a bit of a mixed bunch. Belgian star Matthias Schoenaerts is surprisingly good as the West Country English farm-hand, patiently waiting for Bathsheba to stop being seduced by glamour and riches. Michael Sheen is a little one-note, as the love-struck Lord of the Manor, while Tom Sturridge as the wastrel, Sergeant Troy, is frankly under-powered.

You could say the same about the film. Danish director Thomas Vinterberg - one of the founders and leading lights of the old Dogme movement – seems determined to avoid melodrama at all costs. The cost though is an emotionally neutral, arms-length rendition of Hardy’s seething, suppressed passion. It’s all a bit restrained and under-populated for a film called Far From The Madding Crowd. 

Despite a riveting central performance, this proves that Hardy – like Jane Austen and the Brontes – only works with a bit of melo amongst the drama.

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