sun 21/07/2024

DVD: Far From The Madding Crowd | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Far From The Madding Crowd

DVD: Far From The Madding Crowd

Carey Mulligan sparkles but Thomas Vinterberg's Hardy is only a partial account

Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene: her farm has plenty of bushels but her light remains on show

Danish director Thomas Vinterberg specialises in claustrophobic, asphyxiating atmospheres, from his breakthrough family abuse tale Festen to the more recent study of small-town paranoia, The Hunt. Moving from domestic close-up to the Wessex wide shots and cosmic panoramas of Thomas Hardy, there’s a grinding of gears, and choosing Far From The Madding Crowd as his Hardy debut, when John Schlesinger’s 1967 adaptation is so revered, seems provocative.

The Wessex countryside comes across as postcard-pretty rather than awesome and bleak

Vinterberg has cast well, and Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene brings the sort of endlessly dimpled coquettishness that ignites many a country passion, while Michael Sheen invests the character of Boldwood with a convincingly intense neurosis. Matthias Schoenaerts, as Oak, is perhaps too beautiful: it’s a wonder Bathsheba hasn’t tumbled him in the hay long before the final proposal. Vinterberg composes small, tense emotional scenes very skilfully. For me, this included Troy’s infamous sword-display seduction of Bathsheba, which here – controversially – ends on a clutch to the crotch that rather startlingly emphasises Troy’s serpentine opportunism.

Hardy’s other great character, the Wessex countryside, comes across as postcard-pretty rather than awesome and sometimes bleak, and this, along with the absence of most of the rustic crowd scenes, suggests Vinterberg’s immersion in Hardy was shallow and short-lived. His stories need both minor characters and open space in which to grow and develop, yet perhaps the most glaring contrast with Schlesinger’s version is the excision of over an hour from the running time. It’s almost as if he’s re-made Schlesinger for television, taking out the moody panoramas and chuntering rustics, to concentrate on the drama between principal characters. Despite excellent individual scenes and performances, what’s left lacks any clear aesthetic vision, and the sense of landscape and nature as agents in the story, essential in Hardy, is absent here. For once, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, in this talented, but limited interpretation.

It’s almost as if he’s re-made Schlesinger's 1967 adaptation for television


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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