Far From the Madding Crowd
Genre: Literary Adaption (of novel by Thomas Hardy)
Starring: Carey Mulligan (The Great Gatsby; 2013), Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone; 2012), Michael Sheen (Midnight in Paris), Tom Sturridge
Writer: David Nicholls
Director: Tom Vinterberg
Distributor: Searchlight Pictures
Will the Lady Choose Character Over Charisma?
From the opening scenes in the beautiful British highlands, we see that Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) is not your average Victorian lady. She rides her horse creatively; she bluntly speaks her mind; and she rejects her shepherd/neighbor suitor, Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), saying, “I am too independent for marriage” and “You will would eventually resent me.” She also becomes the inheritor of a large estate and tells her work crew upon first meeting them: “I hope to astound you.” She does so by breaking from class tradition by working alongside them in the fields.
Yet, despite her reticence to fall into the traditional role, expected of her gender at the time, her fine facial features and comely form, of course, attract all kinds of men—the kind and hardworking shepherd, a quirky, but sincere nobleman, and a smooth-talking, flamboyant soldier.
Everything seems to be going along as planned when she unexpectedly meets the dashing, young, military man, Frank Troy, (Tom Sturridge) in the forest. Taken aback by her beauty he exclaims, “You have the most beautiful face I have ever seen.” With little experience in love, she is completely undone by his adoration and even confesses to him that she has never been kissed. He offers to remedy the situation by a future clandestine rendezvous in the woods, where he first challenges her to a bravery test, which involves him making multiple sword thrusts around her body.
Meanwhile, her nobleman/neighbor, William Boldwood, is also smitten by her and admits frankly that he doesn’t care if she loves him or not. He understands if she doesn’t feel passionately about him. He just wants her to be his wife and provide for all her needs. His interest was ignited by Bathsheba when she sent him an anonymous St. Valentine’s Day card on a whim, which he finally deduces was from her. He reasons that it makes sense to combine their properties through marriage since they border one another.
In some ways, this story is very similar to Jane Austen’s famous book, Sense and Sensibility. The protagonist must choose between very different men which one she will marry, or remain alone.
Knowing some of the other novels by Hardy and his penchant for life’s perplexities and pathos (i.e. Tess of the D’Urbervilles), I was not certain how this story would play out. With a few plot twists and turns, the modern-thinking woman in 19th century clothes does learn some vital lessons, but it takes all the men to refocus her dreams.
"Many a man claims to have unfailing love, but a faithful man who can find?" Proverbs 20:6
*Some objectionable parts may include a sex scene in the shadows between a husband and wife (nothing really shown except a man’s naked upper torso) and a groping maneuver on a dress.