Based on the classic 1874 novel by Thomas Hardy, director Thomas Vinterberg’s Far From the Madding Crowd is a stunningly realized adaptation full of sweeping landscapes and gorgeous costumes – not to mention its fair share of great performances from the leading cast.
Carey Mulligan stars as Bathsheba, an independent and headstrong young woman whose recent inheritance of a sprawling estate full of sheep and wheat leaves her less than interested in finding a husband to take care of her. Indeed, she spurns the advances of neighboring farmer Gabriel Oaks (Matthias Schoenaerts), whom circumstances will eventually find in her employ. And she’s equally disinclined to marry into the lap of luxury with wealthy land baron William Boldwood (Michael Sheen), who seems more interested in her land than her affections.
Things become more complicated with the arrival of a third potential suitor, Sgt. Francis Troy (Tom Sturridge). With his good looks and devil-may-care attitude, he’s the very definition of passion and sexuality – particularly in a scene where he puts on a display of swordsmanship for a swooning Bathsheba. But the budding romance with Troy is only the beginning of Bathsheba’s journey, which is destined to be fraught with peril and tragedy.
Mulligan is superbly cast as Bathsheba, portraying a woman who rails against societal norms in an era where women were rarely given the freedom to make their own decisions about anything. Schoenaerts and Sheen are equally good, with the former as strong and steadfast as his character’s last name, and the latter just awkward enough to be endearing. Sturridge doesn’t fare quite so well, and audiences may find it difficult to understand precisely why Bathsheba would be so smitten with his character.
The Blu-Ray release from 20th Century Fox comes with nearly 18 minutes of deleted scenes (although none which would have added anything of significance to the film), as well as an extended ending and a number of promotional featurettes. These are short segments, running between three and five minutes each, but they explore everything from the look of the film to the choices each performer made in creating their characters, to the shooting locations and the difficulties in adapting a classic novel that has already seen three previous attempts. The material presented here is mildly interesting, but not terribly revealing or informative.
But the presentation is absolutely superb, bringing cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s visuals to life in a way that allows the audience to truly appreciate the breathtaking beauty of the English countryside. Far From the Madding Crowd‘s ocular magnificence is matched only by that of Mulligan’s performance, and the combination makes for an enjoyable period piece that respects the source material and offers what may be the best version of the tale yet.