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Categories: Movie Reviews

Lynn Klein reviews Thomas Vinterberg’s new film “Far From the Madding Crowd”, starring Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts in an adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel of the same name.

Thomas Vinterberg picked a classic British novel by Thomas Hardy to adapt into his newest feature. Far from the Madding Crowd is carried by a brilliant Carey Mulligan, and tells the story of the untamed Bathsheba very well. A contender in the international competition at Istanbul International Film Festival in April, Vinterberg’s film populates the beautiful rural English landscape with intriguing characters.

Bathsheba Everdene is an independent woman in Victorian England who takes pride in not needing a husband. She rejects the proposal of her farmer neighbour Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), and takes over the farm she inherits from her uncle. Determined to run the farm on her own, she tells her staff: ‘I intend to astonish you all.’

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Of course, even though she claims she does not need a husband, she has several suitors competing for her attention. Besides Mr Oak, her neighbour Mr Boldwood (Michael Sheen) is among them. Sheen gives another excellent performance as the lonely middle-aged bachelor. His mimic perfectly conveys the agony he feels when he sees the unattainable Bathsheba.

Another suitor is Frank Troy, a soldier who was supposed to marry the servant of Bathsheba’s late uncle, Fanny Robbins (Juno Temple), but then woos Bathsheba after running into her on her land. Troy is played by Tom Sturridge, who seems an odd choice for the role. He conveys the silly performer who is more show than substance quite well, but lacks a certain patriarchal aura the character would need. Matthias Schoenaerts might lack that quality as well, but his character is more demure, serving his mistress and waiting patiently.

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Right in the middle of the film, Bathsheba is confronted by Frank during a tête-à-tête in ‘the hollow of the ferns’. This scene not only portrays Bathsheba’s innocence and coming of age, but is also her most sensual and vulnerable moment. Frank performs his swordsmanship for her and in the meantime kisses her. She had previously confessed to him that she had never been kissed. The tension is palpable, and this moment halfway through the film strikes Bathsheba to the core. She loses all the reason she was so proud of, and gets lost in Frank. The frame is cropped to only show parts of Troy, playing with the emphasis on his unreliability. Bathsheba on the other hand is frequently portrayed from behind or her side, showing the vulnerability she tries to hide as best she can.

The scene in the ferns is one of the ones that showcase the beautiful rural setting of the whole film. Vinterberg emphasises the Dorset landscapes rather than the ‘madding crowd’ referred to in the title. Nonetheless, the workers at the farm and the community in the village are portrayed in several scenes, neatly balancing the film.

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David Nicholls’ screenplay retains the romance of the original novel, but emphasizes Bathsheba’s strong character. Mulligan expresses her character’s emotions, convictions and fears brilliantly, whether it is in her strong moments as the mistress of a farm or her vulnerable moments when she loses her control to Troy.

Far from the Madding Crowd is very different from Vinterberg’s previous work, which is also owed to it being an Anglo-American co-production. The devoted Vinterberg fans might be disappointed by the conventional style, but it is an entertaining film that, though not action-packed, makes time pass quickly. It is rather refreshing to be watching a film that is based on a novel from 1874, as a certain simplicity takes the heat off the more experimental and political films at these festivals. It is a very well-made Victorian romance that I would definitely watch again.

This review was first published by Nisimazine (http://nisimasa.com) at the Istanbul International Film Festival.

Lynn Klein is a journalist currently doing a print journalism MA at Sheffield. Unsurprisingly, she's a film buff with a love for art and indie film. Her favourite cinema is the Duke of Yorks in Brighton. Other interests include books, coffee and travelling.

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Posted on May 11, 2015

One Response to ““Far From the Madding Crowd” is a well-made and entertaining Victorian romance”
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  1. Evelyn says:

    I hate period pieces. Nonetheless, I do love Thomas Hardy and Far From the Madding Crowd happens to be one of my favourite books. Add in a director that I love and an outstanding cast and it results in a period piece that is not only tolerable but also enjoyable. Carey Mulligan (http://careymulligan.org/) reinforces her outstanding acting ability to rise above the rest of the Madding Crowd.

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