Sadly, I’m old enough to remember the critically acclaimed 1967 film adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd,. Directed by John Schlesinger, it starred Julie Christie as Bathsheba Everdene, with Terence Stamp, Peter Finch and Alan Bates as her triumvirate of suitors.
Yesterday we watched the 2015 incarnation, directed by Thomas Vinterberg with a screenplay by David Nicholls (the author of Starter for Ten, One Day and Us) and aimed squarely at a 21st century audience.
Carey Mulligan is perfectly cast as Bathsheba, a beautiful, feisty, and independent young woman, who inherits her uncle’s Wessex farming estate.
Her feminism is rare in Victorian times, and her natural exuberance attracts three very different men.
Quickly becoming another famous Belgian, Matthias Schoenaerts is Gabriel Oak, a hard-working sheep farmer who loses his own livelihood and ends up working for Bathsheba.
William Boldwood is a wealthy, 40 year-old bachelor neighbour. Played by Michael Sheen, Mr Boldwood is at first indifferent to Bathsheba, but quickly becomes infatuated with her after a prank is misconstrued.
And then there’s dashing Sergeant Troy, played by Tom Sturridge. The speed with which the hitherto defiantly single Bathsheba succumbs to the ultimately disastrous soldier is surprising, and perhaps a function of this adaptation condensing the plot a little too narrowly.
This love triangle is played out in the mesmerising Dorset landscape, with exquisite cinematography by Charlotte Bruus Christensen. The scene of a young, untrained sheepdog herding Gabriel’s flock over the cliff tops to thud onto the beach way below will linger long in the memory.
The story ends with a sort of stoic happiness, vividly conveying Thomas Hardy’s message about the value of long-term loyalty compared with brief passion.
A joyous way to spend a couple of hours….particularly if you like Dorset.