Far from the Madding Crowd
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Writer: David Nicholls
Based on: Thomas Hardy‘s novel
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple, Jessica Barden, Michael Sheen
Seen on: 21.7.2015
Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) is rather poor, but her neighbor Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts) whose hard work has seen him well-established as a farmer courts her anyway. But Bathsheba doesn’t want to get married and give up her freedom, and before she can change her mind, Gabriel loses everything and Bathsheba surprisingly inherits a large estate. With their fortunes reversed, Gabriel starts working for Bathsheba who not only tries to run her new farm on her own, but also finds herself entangled with her rich, well-settled neighbor William Boldwood (Michael Sheen) and dashing young officer Francis Troy (Tom Sturridge).
Far from the Madding Crowd is a beautiful piece of cinema: great cast, stunning camera work, perfect score and an engaging, interesting story. I loved it.
There is only one element of the film that they didn’t entirely pull off, and that’s Bathsheba’s sudden attraction to Troy. I gathered from the story and the way their meeting was set in scene that she just falls head over heels for him in an instant. But I never actually felt it. There was just no chemistry there. Which meant that during the subsequent development I had to convince myself that’s what’s happening instead of letting the film show me what’s happening. That took away power from that particular plot line.
But the chemistry Tom Sturridge and Carey Mulligan are lacking is easily made up for by the chemistry between her and Matthias Schoenaerts, because holy fucking damn, that was smoking. I’m usually no fan of plot lines where one partner has to shape the other into relationship material, and even less when the woman basically expects that a man has to beat her into submission before she can marry him, but somehow the two of them make even that work (making it, I think, the first film since 10 Things I Hate About You to pull it off).
That it works is not their achievement alone, though. It is mostly due to Bathsheba’s character development: she gets to be rash and abrasive and she gets to fall madly in love – and not with the guy she is meant to be with ™. And then she gets to soften and to realize where maybe her abrasiveness is just a defense mechanism and not necessary (sometimes it is very necessary). She gets the romantic ending, but she doesn’t have to give herself or her independence up to do so, making this probably one of the most feminist stories to come out of that time period and written by a man. Also, I’m in love with Bathsheba myself now. (With Gabriel, too. And even with Boldwood a little. But mostly with Bathsheba.) [I really need to read the book.]
All of that is wrapped in a beautiful package made of cinematography to drool over, great costumes and sets, and music to give you goosebumps (including this). It doesn’t really get much better than this.