Sunday, 6 September 2015

Far From The Madding Crowd

I’m not a huge fan of period dramas. Then again, I doubt they’re really aimed at me. Using the same sort of generalisations that I’m sure the film’s marketing division will have used, a lad my age – particularly one who writes for CeX – is the last sort of person to watch this film…you know, unless they were trying to win a young lady in the process. But as a totally unbiased writer, I went into this with an open mind. 

Directed by Thomas Vinterberg and based on Thomas Hardy’s classic novel, this new adaptation of Far From The Madding Crowd is out now on DVD & Blu-Ray. Like many other classic novels, Far From The Madding Crowd has had many adaptations in TV & film. The 1967 version starring Julie Christie has become something of a classic piece of cinema, and so this one has unfortunately invited a lot of comparison to it. But let’s look at this adaptation on its own terms, shall we?

For those of you who don’t know the story, it goes a little something like this - an independent and headstrong young lady, rather strangely named Bathsheba Everdene, inherits a large farm and attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer who has loved her for a long time; Frank Troy, a reckless and cruel Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor. That’s it. There is nothing more to the story. You might think “oh there’s got to be something else” but there really isn’t. And therein lies my only problem with this fantastically well-made film. It’s not so much a problem with the film as it is a problem with the source material – now, I admit, I haven’t read the book. Maybe there’s more of a story there. Or maybe by period drama standards this is as exciting as it gets! But by the time I reached the end of this quiet and slow couple of hours, it felt like nothing had actually happened in the film. At least up until the rushed third act. It was just 2 whole hours of “hmmm, which of these men shall I marry…hmmmm….

But on the plus side, Far From The Madding Crowd is an absolutely beautiful film in every other regard. The cinematography by Charlotte Bruus Christensen, and the general visual feel, makes for one of the most aesthetically pleasing films I’ve seen in a long time. The majority of the film takes place outdoors, either in the hills and fields or the rustic farms and villages – and to steal a comment my sister made, every outdoor shot seems like a postcard. The cast are all on fantastic form too; Carey Mulligan delivers as Bathsheba, while her three suitors Matthias Schoenaerts (the only non-Brit in the cast), Michael Sheen and Tom Sturridge are all on superb form. The score by Craig Armstrong is beautiful and era authentic, perfectly complimenting the gorgeous visuals. All in all, this film feels like vintage cinema. If aliens came down to Earth who did not know any of the cast (but for some reason had a basic grasp of the eras of film-making), you could show them this film next to the 1967 adaptation and I doubt they could tell you which was which. But I imagine they’d be more interested in taking over the planet than playing fun little Which is Which? games with Far From The Madding Crowd adaptations.

But ultimately, no matter how lavish and beautiful the production, you’re still left with a rather uneventful story. I’m sure as a novel it works great – it has to, it’s an iconic piece of work - but as a film, for me anyway, it felt a little dull. However, with a film like this the good outweighs the bad and the visuals, acting and music make Far From The Madding Crowd a highly recommended watch for a quiet night in.

Far From The Madding Crowd is a stunning production across the board and earns a solid 4/5.


 Sam Love

Far From The Madding Crowd at CeX

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