“In those earlier days she had always nourished a secret contempt for girls who were the slaves of the first good-looking young fellow who should choose to salute them… she had felt herself sufficient to herself” Thomas Hardy
The opening scenes of Far From The Madding Crowd are visually stunning. Setting the scene for what’s to come we meet Bathsheba Everdene shunning the traditional side-saddle horseback riding for women in favour of the more controversial (at the time) astride reserved for men. Feisty, spirited, head strong and in no hurry to marry, Bathsheba inherits her uncle’s farm. The inheritance makes her a woman of means and enhances her already deeply rooted sense of independence. The character at the time of the book coming out was designed to shock and question audiences. A far cry from today where we think nothing of a strong independent woman who lives life as she chooses.
Bathsheba Everdene is played by Carey Mulligan. Described by producers Andrew MacDonald and Allon Reich as “a chameleon who inhabits characters down to the very pores of their skin”. Excellent casting I must say. Mulligan can be strong willed and vulnerable at the same time. On taking over her farm she declares to the staff “you have a mistress now and my intention is to astonish you all”.
She attracts the attention of three suitors. The rugged, generous and patient Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts). He remains steadfast by her side with a silent longing waiting for the day she will choose him. She in return holds him in high regard and they have a certain sense of companionship throughout the movie.
Tom Sturridge plays Sergeant Francis Troy the broody looking slighty arrogant second suitor. He had been due to marry Fanny Robin (Juno Temple) who, due to unfortunate circumstances never arrived at the church. He is drawn to Bathsheba who, caught up in the whirlwind romance, marries him, only to find he is not all he seems.
Martin Sheen plays William Boldwood, the third suitor, a wealthy landowner in the neighbouring farm. Older than Bathsheba he is drawn to her independent spirit and a want to protect her. His character is one of high social standing, which with his stoic personality leaves him somewhat separate from the community around him. Bathsheba awakens in him a desire for more, and a fondness for her we see emerge when they share a duet over dinner. His growing attraction to her ultimately seals his own fate.
Filmed in locations such as Dorset and Buckinghamshire, the settings for the movie could not be more perfect. Mappteron House became Bathshebas farm and Claydon House doubled as Mr. Boldwood’s mansion. David Nicholls wrote the screenplay and is an author in his own right having published four novels, Starter for Ten, The Understudy, One Day and US. Producer Andrew MacDonald’s first feature was the highly acclaimed Shallow Grave. He has also produced such hits as 28 Weeks Later, The Last King of Scotland and Notes on a Scandal.
The story is timeless, the acting is superb and it’s shot beautifully. I’m a bit of a sucker for a period drama so I’m giving it a 4 out of 5.