Far From The Madding Crowd
Cert: 12A / 119 mins / Dir. Thomas Vinterburg / Trailer
You had one job, Matthias. You're a shepherd; protect the sheep. And if protecting those sheep involves you manufacturing a sturdy fence that they won't be able to push over the moment the fancy takes them, then you build that bloody fence, Matthias! Twice in this film (twice) Dorset's most lackadaisical ovine protection agent stumbles at the hurdle of fence-erection, and is still somehow trusted to look after the sheep. You had one job…
Thomas Vinterburg's big-screen adaptation of the 1875 Tomas Hardy novel, Far From The Madding Crowd, boasts a very capable cast in the form of Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom Sturridge and the ever-smirking Michael Sheen. What is potentially a thoroughly depressing story of poor decision-making and bad circumstances is lifted from the doldrums by the performances of Mulligan and Schoenaerts, which isn't to belittle the efforts of everyone else, but they're essentially the only sympathetic characters on offer. Some beautifully quiet photography*1 of the Dorset landscape also provides some respite from the strains of rural life, courtesy of cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen.
It's definitely a film for Fans Of This Sort Of Thing, and while I wouldn't consider myself a member of that club, I found plenty to enjoy in the acting, direction and writing (ironically, it's most often the screen-writing, or just the narrative itself, of literary adaptations which rubs me up the wrong way). As someone who isn't familiar with the original work, I thought it worked very well, and the themes of indecision and good intentions married with bad outcomes translate to 2015 with ease. The film feels a little rushed on occasion, but the two-hour runtime is a good fit for the story which is being told, so no real complaints from me.
If you only see one Victorian romantic melodrama this year starring a folk singer, a Pre-Raphaelite artist, a reluctant Nazi and a vampire, you could do worse than*2 Far From The Madding Crowd.
Only if you're an avid fan of this sort of thing.
It's a DVD on a Sunday afternoon, really.
Not the very best, but by no means the worst.
I think it does.
Carey Mulligan starred in 2013's Inside Llewyn Davis alongside Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac, both of whom will appear in this year's Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
*1 Although again, for several indoor scenes we have close-up shots filmed using hand-held cameras on zoom, with every judder and sway of the operator's hand being exaggerated by the magnification. When you're watching this on a cinema-screen it's nausea-inducing.
*2 I imagine. I'll be honest, I haven't looked up those criteria across the year's other releases, but by all means let me know if any fit the bill.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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