|Title:||Far From The Madding Crowd|
|Runtime:||1 Hour 59 mins|
|Release Date:||US: May 01 2015
UK: May 01 2015
|See If You Like:||The Great Gatsby,
Pride & Prejudice,
Thomas Hardy’s literary classic ‘Far From the Madding Crowd‘ gets a modern spin this week – but does the famous 1870’s novel translate well to a modern audience?
Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan, ‘The Great Gatsby’) is a beautiful & free spirited woman who chooses independence over a husband – but despite her intentions, her attempts to fend off the affections of three very different suitors leads her life into chaos. After turning down the offer of marriage from sheep farmer Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts, ‘Suite Francais’), she inherits a successful farm and fortune and takes the man on as her shepherd. It’s not long before she’s caught the eye of her wealthy neighbour Mr Boldwood (Michael Sheen, ‘Underworld’), who is swept up in her charms and offers her security and devotion. Unfortunately, she’s holding out for passion, and she finds this in spades when she runs into Sgt Troy (Tom Sturridge, ‘On the Road’) in the woods. Recently jilted at the altar by runaway farm girl Fanny (Juno Temple), he is quick to marry the fiery Miss Everdene. But doing so sends both of their lives spiralling out of control and his selfish and boisterous nature begins to take a toll on everything around them.
For a modern audience it is frustrating to have words like ‘independent woman’ thrown around in a film where the actions of the leading lady are so driven by the men in her life. Though Mulligan gives a passionate portrayal as a strong willed, intelligent and admirable woman in the first half, there is a complete reversal of her nature half way through that feels much too sudden, going as far as to make her seem weak willed, victimised and easily seduced.
Set in the English countryside, the film is full of picturesque cinematography that creates a nostalgic and inviting atmosphere. Capturing Hardy’s intention, Thomas Vinterberg (‘The Hunt’) manages to paint a romanticised snapshot of life in that time and place.
However, in his attempts to make the world of the film and its characters seem appealing, a great deal has been cut in terms of character traits and context required to understand events (in particular in the case of Mr Boldwood). The resulting effect is a confusing progression of story, where actions seem to have come out of no-where.
In general, the story is as outlandish as that of any modern day soap. In its original format (released in sections in a weekly magazine) it was designed to leave readers hanging in suspense after major events, and it includes a lot of shocking and wild drama that kept people hooked. Unfortunately, by trying to take on the material in an ultra realistic fashion and edit out character traits that might have seemed too crazy or actions that might have been too racy, a lot of this has been washed out. In its place is an artistic and serious tone that it simply cannot fully embrace without altering the story completely and so the tone is very confused.
The main romance itself is enjoyable. Though Nicholls script is in places laughably clichéd, there is a touching chemistry between Mulligan and Schoenaerts’ Oak that stokes your interest in the film’s outcome. Oak is the most consistently likeable character in the bunch – a far cry from the ‘love to hate him’ Sgt T playing fantastically abhorrent by Sturridge, other than the moments of heart he shows in the rare moments when Juno Temple appears in the story.
Finally, Michael Sheen brings likeability to the pitiful and lonely man Mr Boldwood, who is ultimately seen in a sympathetic light (though much of the more negative aspects of his character are never translated from the book to the screen).
Overall, it’s a confusing cinematic experience. It’s a mish-mash of styles, and while in places there is a successful connection felt with certain moments or characters, it never satisfies for too long before it there is another spontaneous jump or disagreeable decision and you’re back to feeling frustrated.