Based on the novel by Thomas Hardy, this most recent re-telling of Far From The Madding Crowd, marked my first experience with the material. Going in blind, with no expectations, or comparisons to make with previous big-screen adaptations, meant that I could judge this film strictly on its own merits. It it was love at first sight for me, as the opening ten minutes – a prologue of sorts – showcased enough beauty to make me instantly swoon.
In these opening moments, we’re introduced to one of the most important characters in the film – Dorset. The gorgeous, sweeping landscapes of green rolling hills, costal cliffs, and woodlands, are made even more beautiful with the help of cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen. You can’t help but feel immersed in the scenery, and thereby the film, through the stunning visuals that create mood, tension, and atmosphere, through the way in which they are lit.
It is truly a pretty picture and is easily the most attractive film I’ve seen in 2015 so far – a real treat for the eyes, that you’ll wish were bigger, just so you could take more in at once. The good looks are only part of the films success though, with a characterful story at the centre of it, that sticks with you and picks at you long after you’ve seen it.
Carey Mulligan plays the headstrong Bathsheba Everdene, who unexpectedly inherits her uncle’s farm and all his wealth. Independent and apparently untameable, the story follows her relationships with three possible suitors; sheep farmer, Gabirel Oak; military sergeant, Frank Troy; and the mature but wealthy bacholer, William Boldwood.
I’m a sucker for a decent romance, and despite its moments of melodrama, Far From The Madding Crowd appeals to my old-romantic nature. The story is perhaps one we’ve seen before, but it’s the characters who really set this apart from the others.
Bathsheba Everdene – played to absolute perfection by Mulligan, who looks like she’s in for a defining year with the upcoming Suffragette – could be said to be a strong femal character, but I don’t think it’s as simple as that. She’s strong at times, but weak too; she’s often likeable, but there are moments where she’s unlikeable too; her character is complex and interesting, which makes for compulsive viewing.
Mulligan’s wonderful performance is just one of the many brilliant turns in the film. Michael Sheen, who plays the sympathetic Boldwood, comes the closest to stealing the limelight, with an effortlessly intense onscreen prescence, that somewhat overshadows the other two male performances. Matthias Schoenaerts continues to impress me with his body of work, whilst Tom Sturridge puts in a suitably eccentric turn as Troy.
It is a perfect marriage of performance and photography, combined with great direction from Thomas Vinterberg, who seems to understand and maintain the sexually charged undertones of the original story. All of this is aided by the music of Craig Armstrong, who has already provided one of this years best pieces of film music with the recent Mommy, and continues to impress here with a folky, soul-stirring score.
Far From The Madding Crowd is a sensory delight – a stunningly crafted period drama that will please most. It’s romantic, absorbing, and rooted in the breathtakingly beautiful British countryside, to the point where it really made me want to move to Dorset and become a farmer. It’s simply wonderful – go see it.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com