Movie: Far from the Madding Crowd
Starring: Carey Mulligan
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Writer: David Nicholls and Thomas Hardy
Locations: Dorset, England
Length: 1 hr. 59 minutes
So many times as I was sitting in the theater watching this gorgeous film and the events of the story, I thought, this is why I love Hardy. This movie is true to Hardy’s story, true to modern times, true to the nineteenth century and true to the loveliness of the South English coast. See eleven stunning clips at imdb.com
Hardy wrote the hearts of the characters. Yes, sometimes there are slightly improbable coincidences in his stories, but always it is in service to his characters, so readers will understand those hearts and minds. This director does not disappoint us in transferring Hardy to the screen. He has made a movie all about the characters. Actions are shown to be what we might expect from characters.
The story is well told against the lush background of the Dorset countryside. Its pastoral beauty is lovingly photographed. The beauty and believability of the nineteenth century farming scenes grip the viewer. Gathering grain, bad weather, dirt lanes, cliffs and sheep transport us to that time and place.
Carey Mulligan gives an outstanding performance as the young heroine determined to run the farm on her own terms. She holds her head high, she remains calm, yet shows us with face and voice, the turmoil inside her. All of the actors bring their characters to life with understated, strong acting. I could watch them again and again. Performances are nuanced and true to the story. Three suitors vie for her hand. Who will be chosen? What will happen to them and to our beloved Bathsheba Everdene? The story and the characters, as presented here, hold us in suspense until nearly the last frame.
The costumes are glorious. Never have I seen better Victorian costume. Ms. Mulligan is the perfect model of the varied dress her role demands, and the clothing of the male characters tells the viewer much. Costumes are not only beautiful to behold, they enhance the story. I could believe I was at that farm and in that village. And yet, no costume, no lush pasture, no fold of sheep, no field of ferns detracts from the story.
There is an integrity to all aspects of this movie that we see too seldom. This tale has held up over time. You may guess this if you notice the similarity between the name of the Hunger Games heroine and Hardy’s independent, determined female farmer. Everdene’s decisions are not unlike decisions that face women today. The timelessness in the male-female relationships of this story will not be lost on viewers. And there are lessons, too, lurking in the community relations from a different time, to inform our class and community struggles of the present day.
Critics like the movie, although perhaps not quite so much as I. Everyone agrees Carey Mulligan’s performance is beyond outstanding. Certainly this is the best movie I’ve seen this year and Carey Mulligan is a favored actress. I hope she is remembered at awards time. The actors who play her suitors are equal to her in both charm and depth. And Hardy’s beloved Wessex is not to be missed. Bravo!!!
Afternote: For years I have misread this title as Far From the Maddening Crowd instead of Far From the Madding Crowd. Mystery solved by Wikipedia. The title was taken from a line in Thomas Gray’s poem Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard: “far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife.” Here madding means frenzied. Hardy’s story disrupts the idyll of country life. More about Hardy on the writing page of this blog.
Do let us know what you think of this movie! Comments are the fun of a blog. And check out those clips.