--> Carey Mullligan Matthias Schoenaerts Michael Sheen Tom Sturridge Jessica Barden Juno Temple
“It’s my intention to astonish you all”, announces the heroine in Far from the Madding Crowd to her newly hired farm hands. And Bathsheba (Mulligan) does just that in the rest of the film based on Thomas Hardy’s classic novel. In the artful hands of Director Thomas Vinterberg, and screenwriter David Nicholls, the movie lives up to standards of the dogme95 manifesto in which Vinterberg and Lars von Trier stood up for artistry by reacting to the big studios’ emphasis on action films with overloaded special effects and other technological advances. Now, it is ironic that Vinterberg’s film is being released almost simultaneously as The Avengers: Age of Ultron, and, sadly, the masses are flocking to the action film.
Gratifying to many of us wanting to see more comprehensive—and realistic—portrayals of women in films, Bathsheba appears to us as one who values her independence, wants to compete with men on their own terms, and is sensible in wanting to know as much about her business as possible. Despite this, she is a woman of her time (turn of the century), and a complex mixture of intelligence, assertiveness, and naïveté. Her teasing and the variability of her affections make her even more alluring to the men around her.
Three men rush to woo her and make her his own, promising her devotion and caring for the rest of her life. First is Gabriel, the level headed neighbor farmer who ends up being in her employ; second is the well-to-do neighbor farmer, Boldwood (Sheen); and then Sergeant Troy (Sturridge), a handsome man and a master of swordsmanship, who sweeps her off her feet despite warnings about him from Gabriel. High drama ensues with all the characters, and Bathsheba will undergo many trials. These episodes have tinges of both drama and comedy, and we appreciate once again Hardy’s understanding of human nature.
It’s wonderful to see Carey Mulligan ace this complex role with glittering, sometimes contradictory, facets to her personality. Matthias Schoenaerts is a perfect contrast/counterpart for her, and the electricity between them really zings at times until she highhandedly puts him in his place. He never wavers, however, in his loyalty to her. Michael Sheen is a standout particularly in one scene where Boldwood confides to Gabriel his complete adoration and love for Bathsheba, and at the same time acknowledges her lack of passion for him, along with the astute observation of Gabriel’s and Bathsheba’s hidden attraction. Tom Sturridge is dashing as a military officer, and easily slips into the posturing of a weak man using foolish means to underscore his masculinity.
Thomas Vinterberg has once again directed a stellar cast in an absorbing and thoughtful story about thoroughly human characters with traits familiar to all of us.
A refreshing visit into classical literature.
Grade: A By Donna R. Copeland