Saturday, 2 May 2015

Far from the Madding Crowd (4 Stars)

Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife
Their sober wishes never learned to stray;
Along the cool sequestered vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.

The film poster that I've included above annoys me. I don't suffer from OCD, as far as I know, but posters like this are just wrong. Four people. Four names. Couldn't the names have been rearranged so that the names match the person below them? Not one of the names is in the right place. It couldn't be that difficult to put the names in the right order, could it?

The film is based on the novel of the same name written by Thomas Hardy in 1874. The book has been filmed four names, in 1915, 1967, 1998 and 2015 (this film). I saw the 1967 version on television years ago, but I couldn't remember it clearly enough to know the story.

Bathsheba Everdene is a young woman who inherits a farm from her uncle. She has to fight against the prejudices of the male-dominated farming community, but she proves herself tough enough to be taken seriously. After turning down two proposals of marriage from good men, the first a shepherd and the second a neighbouring farmer, she falls in love with a soldier who builds up gambling debts after their marriage. Why do women have to fall for the wrong men? I suppose it makes a good story.

I've never enjoyed the classic 18th and 19th Century dramatic love stories. I read a few when I was in school, but the content and the style alienated me. They always seemed to be about women torn between different men. Maybe this came from the repressive society of the time? What I mean is, in the 19th Century it was an awful scandal for women to have affairs, while men could get away with it. In this system of inequality women dreamt of extramarital excitement, so novels gave them something to dream about. That's my theory, anyway.

For me the film's outstanding actor is Matthias Schoenaerts, who plays the shepherd. It's difficult to describe what is so impressive about his performance. He plays a mostly quiet character, but whatever he does is so convincing. I predict a big future for him.

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