Rivals for her Affection

Far From the Madding Crowd

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Director: Thomas Vinterberg

Cast: Carey Mulligan, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple, Matthias Schoenaerts, Bradley Hall, Jessica Barden

Danish director Thomas Vinterberg who gained international attention with his Oscar Nominated film The Hunt, takes on a cinematic adaptation of the 19th century classic Thomas Hardy novel Far From the Madding Crowd and what a superb piece of cinema it is.

The high production values and the crackling onscreen energy between Carey Mulligan who plays the headstrong heroine Bathsheba Everdene and the handsome yet rugged farm manager Gabriel Oak is played by Belgian rising star Matthais Schoenaerts who both make this film captivating.

At the centre of Thomas Hardy’s novel was a rather unconventional idea for its time that of a female heroine taking charge of a large farm in rural Dorset in the 1870’s. Far From the Madding Crowd published in 1874 at the height of the Victorian era become an instant classic and since the twentieth century has been turned into many cinematic adaptations most notably the 1967 classic film of the same name with Julie Christie, Peter Finch, Alan Bates and Terence Stamp as well as a modern day variation Tamara Drewe (2010) with Gemma Arterton, Luke Evans and Dominic Cooper.

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Vinterberg’s version of Far From the Madding Crowd is a handsomely produced, exceptionally acted and beautifully shot in which he extracts genuine performances out of Mulligan and Schoenaerts along with the rest of the supporting cast including Michael Sheen (The Queen), as the prosperous bachelor William Boldwood and the audacious and reckless Sergeant Troy, played with a sort of hint of danger by Tom Sturridge (Being Julia and On the Road). Even Juno Temple as the befallen young damsel, Fanny Robbin is equally good.

What elevates Vinterberg’s film is an intelligent screenplay by David Nicholls and sumptuous cinematography by Charlotte Bruus Christensen together with wonderful costumes by Janet Paterson. Shot mainly in Buckinghamshire, Far From The Madding Crowd will be sure to illicit a renewed interest in Hardy’s novels and especially in the many film adaptations of his work including the 1979 film Tess directed by Roman Polanski featuring Nastassja Kinski.

Bathsheba has to deal with the business of running a farm, which was naturally male dominated as well as warding off possible suitors from the likes of Boldwood and the arrogant Sergeant Troy, whilst her sturdy farm manager, Gabriel Oak, remains loyal to her even when she makes mistakes. The ending of Far From the Madding Crowd is truly sublime and each character is perfectly cast in their roles.

Thomas Vinterberg’s ravishing and gripping rural drama should surely garner some awards at least for the handsome production design and for expertly recreating such a literary treasure on the big screen, making the film just as relevant in an age filled with multimillion dollar CGI laden blockbusters.

Far From the Madding Crowd is an exceptional film and highly recommended for those that enjoyed Jane Campion’s The Piano, Joe Wright’s 2005 film Pride and Prejudice and more recently Cary Fukunaga’s superb film Jane Eyre featuring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender.

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