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Far from the Madding Crowd

May 20, 2015

Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Actors: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom Sturridge

far_from_the_madding_crowd_carey_mulligan_1-300x169.jpg (300×169)

Synopsis: Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) is a young single woman and farm owner in 19th century Dorset. Over the course of a number of years, three men – stoic shepherd Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), middle-aged landowner William Boldwood (Michael Sheen) and dashing army sergeant Francis Troy (Tom Sturridge) – vie for her affections.

Review: Adapting Thomas Hardy’s ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ strikes me as a strange commercial and artistic decision – primarily because the main lure of the novel lies in its dense and literary detours into the minutiae of Victorian-era Dorset rural life. The actual drama draped around that sociological tapestry is in truth a touch tame, and unsurprisingly this production makes the mistake of ramping up the ‘romance’ side of the equation for an end-result that at times veers uncomfortably close to a Mills and Boon-style affair of how Bathsheba goes about her entanglements with the three cardboard cut-out suitors.

The adaptation might have proved more fruitful if in the hands of a more exacting interpreter and auteur, for example a Terence Davies, but in this mollycoddle of a handsomely budgeted, Europudding production, the story gets neutered into an Austenesque romantic drama that stereotypes and fails to get beneath the pretty surface of its period costumes and landscapes.

At least the decision to cast Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene was a sage one, although the three male leads appear eccentrically cast – most notably the suspiciously proto-metro hunky Matthias Schoenaerts who is meant to be playing the shy and taciturn lunk of a Dorset shepherd, Gabriel Oak. (May 2015)

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