Far From the Madding Crowd May09


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Far From the Madding Crowd

FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD is a the new period drama based on the Thomas Hardy novel and directed by Thomas Vinterberg. It is a well-made film full of lush landscapes, oozing with 1800’s romance, and a cast of men all longing to capture one woman’s heart.

mado2Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) is a headstrong, single woman in 1850’s Victorian England. She is capable of managing life and needs little help, so she thinks, from the male species. It isn’t that she hasn’t thought of marriage. In her own words, “She has often thought of being a bride at a wedding, but doesn’t want the husband part.” It only figures that she would have three very different men wanting nothing more than to be her husband.

When she inherits the family farm things don’t get any easier. She still believes that she can handle the responsibilities of running such a vast estate. But the men in her life know better and constantly feel the need to come to her rescue. The question is if she will choose love, convenience, or simple desire in her decision making. 

Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts) is the level headed shepherd who has no problem putting Bathsheba in her place. He cares for her greatly but will not allow himself to be run over by her. Mr. William Boldwood (Michael Sheen) is the wealthy neighboring farmer. He too would love nothing more than to protect her and allow her to spend her life in ease by his side. Then there is the young brash, Sergeant Francis Troy (Tom Sturridge). Will his charm and bold ways be too much for her to ignore?

The film is a solid addition to the period dramas that have popped up over the years. They often get lost in the sea of action packed blockbusters and regurgitated comedies. But when done well they deserve some recognition. And this one does. Absolutely it is not made for everyone and the target audience is women. But that is fine. It in no way diminishes the quality of the film or the perfect performances by Mulligan and her boys. Schoenaerts is superb as the strong, quiet force that keeps everything and everyone together. Sheen and Sturridge are nice complimentary book ends to his character.

I am quite sure the novel is rich in character development and allows the story to unfold more purely than what we get in 119 minutes of screen time.  If there is fault to be found it is in how some plot lines quickly play out and move on leaving the viewer wondering if there wasn’t a bit more to the story. Mulligan makes decisions that seem rushed but in reality were more then likely arrived at in a more deliberate pace.

The cinematography and custom design are musts in a film like this. You have to be swept away to another time and place and feel like you are entrenched in that world. This one succeeds in that. Also, it depicts how rough life was in that age, especially for women. Mulligan conveys the emotion well of a woman trying to make it on her own in a time when few wanted to, or could.

Far From The Madding Crowd is rated PG-13 for some sexuality and violence. It is a very safe film for the target audience. Back then most people were polite and well behaved. Most of these characters reflect that. There are a few heart-wrenching moments of loss and some adult themes. But nothing to be offended by. I give it 3.75 out of 5 sheep pens. A nice addition to the art house fair and those looking for strong characters not wearing capes and tights.