FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (2015)
In Victorian England, independent, beautiful and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), a sheep farmer, captivated by her fetching willfulness; Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge), a handsome and reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), a prosperous and mature bachelor.
Review by Louise Keller:
Three men swirl like an ever-shifting lasso around a feisty, independent heroine in this exquisite adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel that perfectly depicts the social graces of the late 19th century. With enigmatic Matthias Schoenaerts solid as the emotional anchor and Carey Mulligan impressive in her best role since An Education, The Hunt director Thomas Vinterberg has woven the complex elements of love, desire, need and greed into a visual and engaging tale, filled with visual and emotional richness. The story and characters belong to a time gone by, yet the result is fresh, vital and new.
It is in the picturesque, rolling hills of 1870 Dorset, that handsome landowner Gabriel Oaks (Schoenaerts) first sees Bathsheba Everdene (Mulligan), galloping on her chestnut horse, her chestnut hair as untamed as her temperament. He is instantly smitten and his moral code and sense of decency never wavers, but their relationship takes many turns through a reversal of fortunes and changing times through the course of the film. Bathsheba is every inch the strong, determined woman, not afraid to defy convention and replete with the courage of her convictions. In her characterisation, Mulligan contrasts great outward strength with emotional frailty as she undergoes an emotional awakening. Her three suitors could not be more different: Oaks, the self-assured man for whom pride does not get in the way; Boldwood (Michael Sheen), the well-to-do neighbor who has no pride; Sergeant Troy (Tom Sturridge), the self-absorbed, dashing soldier for whom pride is everything.
Sheen peels away Boldwood's pride and veneer with devastating honesty; when he bears his soul to Bathsheba, it is hard not to be profoundly touched. Even more touching is the friendship that arises between Boldwood and Oaks, with Boldwood sharing confidences beyond what is reasonable, especially to a man who harbours feelings for the same woman. And then there is Sturridge's Troy, the suave scoundrel who sweeps the virginal Bathsheba off her feet and into his bed. Juno Temple is effective as Fanny, Troy's true love, the innocent victim in all that happens.
Oaks, Boldwood and Troy love and need Bathsheba - for very different reasons; but only one of these men remains in control of his own destiny. Watch for the scene at Boldwood's lavish Christmas party, where both Oaks and Bathsheba recognize they are out of place.
Vinterberg colours the narrative with beautiful imagery: wheat fields, flowers, ripples, jagged cliffs, apple trees and sunsets; Craig Armstrong's lyrical score soaring throughout. Thomas Hardy's words are vital, as reflected by David Nicholls's adaptation, although sometimes it is actions not words that provide the most complete answer - as depicted in the final moving scenes.
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FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (2015) (M)
CAST: Matthias Achoenaerts, Carey Mulligan, Tom Sturridge, Michael Sheen, Juno Temple, Jessica Barden, Hilton McRae
PRODUCER: Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich
DIRECTOR: Thomas Vinterberg
SCRIPT: David Nicholls (novel by Thomas Hardy)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Charlotte Bruus Christensen
EDITOR: Claire Simpson
MUSIC: Craig Armstrong
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kave Quinn
RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 25, 2015