FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (director: Thomas Vinterberg; screenwriters: David Nicholls/from a Thomas Hardy novel; cinematographer: Charlotte Bruus Chistensen; editor: Claire Simpson; music: Craig Armstrong; cast: Carey Mulligan (Bathsheba Everdene), Matthias Schoenaerts (Gabriel Oak), Michael Sheen (William Boldwood), Tom Sturridge (Sgt. Francis Troy), Juno Temple (Fanny Robbin), Jessica Barden (Liddy); Runtime: 119; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Allen Reich/Andrew Macdonald; Fox Searchlight; 2015-UK/USA)

It’s a fine adaptation of the classic.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The sumptuous painterly 18th century period literary bodice ripper is based on the 1874 novel by Thomas Hardy. The talented Danish born filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (“The Hunt”/”Dear Wendy”/”The Celebration”) and screenwriter David Nicholls update it with some modern-day feminist touches. It’s a fine adaptation of the classic, and Carey Mulligan brings it to its romantic crescendo with a bravura performance.

The resilient orphan, Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan), lives on her impoverished farm in Dorset, in 1798. The young free-spirited Victorian woman refuses to marry her handsome low-born, man of the land, sheepherder neighbor Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts) because she wants to be independent in her patriarchal society and feels he doesn’t have it in him to tame her.

Bathsheba’s fortune changes when she inherits her uncle’s vast but rundown estate in Dorset and is determined to restore it to its past glory.

When Bathsheba flirts with her older wealthy gentleman farmer neighbor William Boldwood (Michael Sheen) and gets the stiff character to propose, she also rejects him rather than become another piece of his property.

The bold lady next has a go with a chivalrous dashing seductive soldier, Sergeant Troy (Tom Sturridge), who is always in his bright red coat. When Bathsheba agrees to meet him in a dark forest, all he cares to do is to slice off a lock of her hair with his sword. He mistakenly turns out to be the one she marries and his caddish nature soon is revealed, as he acts like a pompous asshole lording it over his subjects on the estate and freely spends her money without helping on the large farm.

Bathsheba turns a blind eye that her Mr. Right, Gabriel, is now working for her, and ferociously accepts her self-inflicting bad decisions without being cynical or losing her independent spirit.

There have been three previous movie adaptations of Thomas Hardy’s breakthrough fourth novel, including the lethargic 1967 John Schlesinger movie starring Julie Christie, but Vinterberg’s interpretation is both the freshest and most accomplished.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”