August 27, 2015

Far From the Madding Crowd

Thomas Vinterberg, 2015
Madding Crowd can be simply described as a love story, but it's a story that doesn't really have simple love. It gets complicated. Based on the Victorian novel written by Thomas Hardy, it's a story that is centered around young heiress Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan). Bathsheba is surprised to find herself the recipient of a large inheritance part of which is a large farm plantation.

Carrie Mulligan is a pretty good fit for the role, possessing that adorable Carey Mulligan-like charm coupled with a confident seriousness that she has shown in Drive and Steve McQueen's under-rated Shame. Bathsheba is a independent character by nature, quick to break tradition as shown early on when she admits that she's resistant to become another man's "property" and eager to get her hands dirty on her farm. While she is on the receiving end of good fortune, the men that surround her are victims of misfortune. Shepherd Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts) loses his entire flock in heartbreaking fashion early in the story. Neighbor and fellow wealthy person William Boldwood (Michael Sheen) has become lonely to the point of desperation in his life. He's been able to accumulate large wealth while poor in his pursuit of lasting romance. Sergeant Francis Troy (Tom Sturridge) is still licking his wounds over a wedding disaster.

Vinterberg is skillful in creating a compelling adaptation of the classic novel. Mulligan is engaging in the lead but still leaves the question hanging of whether or not she is the type of actress really fit for leading roles, or better in more secondary supporting ones. The film gives you a lot of the beautiful English countryside to gaze at. Vinterberg, as he also shows us in the still under-rated and exceptional The Hunt the he loves to shoot scenes in churches. It's interesting, there are subtle similarities in style in Madding and The Hunt, even though they are completely different types of stories. Madding Crowd is a hearty film and builds up to an emotionally tense climax that will certainly leave you reflecting on the events that occurred. 

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