Last time Thomas Hardy’s rural love story, Far From The Madding Crowd was adapted for film it was 1967, Julie Christie starred and Oscar winner John Schlesinger directed. Since then Schlesinger’s film has become a classic: revered for its landscapes and dramatic pacing. It was always going to be difficult for a new adaptation to compare.
Carey Mulligan Far From The Madding Crowd

This year Thomas Vinterberg (of the superb Danish drama The Hunt) accepted the challenge with the help of modern romance novelist and screenwriter David Nicholls (One Day). Their version of Hardy’s expansive story about an independent woman and her three suitors – one loyal, one desperate and one dishonourable – is condensed into just two hours. Their film feels both
rushed and simplified.

Mercifully, Hardy’s complex heroine is capably brought to life by Carey Mulligan (An Education, Shame) whose haughty demeanour collapses into unrestrained smiles in the company of handsome soldier Troy (Tom Sturridge). Michael Sheen also impresses as the anguished and tormented unrequited lover Boldwood. Meanwhile, the novel’s faithful hero, shepherd Oak, is disappointingly underwritten and talented Belgian star Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust & Bone, Bullhead) is left instead with countless melting gazes.

By rushing audiences through the novel’s core events, Nicholl’s screenplay robs viewers of Hardy’s darkness, smoothing the hard, unpleasant edges of his characters. The result is appealing but run-of-the mill period-drama fare. Vinterberg’s offering has atmosphere and a fragile folksy score but fans of Schlesinger’s movie and Hardy’s original work will be sorely disappointed.

 

VERDICT: ★ ★ ★ 3/5

 

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 119 minutes
Images: © 2014 – Fox Searchlight
Far From The Madding Crowd is available to buy on dvd and blu-ray now

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