Far From The Madding Crowd
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen
119 mins; Class 12;
KRS Releasing Ltd

Carey Mulligan makes Thomas Hardy’s evergreen heroine Bathsheba Everdene her own in this superb adaptation of his 1874 novel Far from the Madding Crowd.

While retaining its 19th-century setting, it is a thoroughly modern look at this feisty, independent country girl whose status improves when she inherits a farm and has to contend with three completely different suitors for her affections.

There is Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts) the sheep farmer who falls on hard times; the dashing but egotistical sergeant Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge); and the mature bachelor William Boldwood (Michael Sheen).

The film is directed by Danish director Thomas Vinterburg. That he is one of the founders of the ‘Dogme 95’ avant-garde film-making movement may make him an odd choice for an adaptation of such a British piece.

Yet, the director brings to bear the movement’s values of story, acting, and theme to the film; the screenplay by David Nicholls very much a character-driven piece, focusing on the protagonists’ lives and desires; most of the characters exquisitely drawn and excellently portrayed.

The story is an extremely romantic one that is intelligent and edgy. While this is no blatant bodice-ripper, there is much smouldering going in, mostly courtesy of Schoenaerts’s Gabriel.

The actor, who seems to be in every other film I am seeing lately (not that I’m complaining) shares some wonderful scenes with Mulligan, as his lovelorn farmer hovers the background.

Michael Sheen’s quiet and unassuming Boldwood manfully suppresses his obvious affections for her, bless him, never giving up on one day marrying her; while Sturridge’s Troy cuts a dashing figure in his uniform and is suitably caddish.

Extremely romantic, intelligent and edgy

For someone like me, who did not know much about the book (now firmly placed on my reading list) the heroine is a fascinating discovery.

Bathsheba is a headstrong character made up of equal parts fierce intelligence, sly humour and inner doubts.

She is a woman way ahead of her time in her outlook, a farmer and land-owner proving her mettle in a male-dominated society who more than holds her own. Small wonder author Suzanne Collins named her Hunger Games heroine Katniss Everdeen after her.

What makes Bathsheba even more attractive is that she is far from perfect… her playful joke on Boldwood has awkward repercussions, her behaviour with Troy is reckless, and her naiveté is at time painfully obvious.

Yet, it is these flaws commingled with her inspiring strengths that make the character so fascinating. And as Bathsheba is torn between the stability and security offered by Boldwood, Troy’s attractive free-spiritedness and the obvious connection she has with Oak, Mulligan, nails her every attribute with charm, humour, warmth and poignancy, fast cementing her reputation as one of the greatest actresses of her generation.