I'm going to show horrible ignorance here and admit that I thought Far From the Madding Crowd was a novel by Bronte or something. But, for someone named Thomas Hardy (not Bane Thomas Hardy) to do this, and have it seem to fit to a degree within the discussion of Bronte in terms of some appreciation or at the very least, various attempts at retelling it, is admirable to me.
The third attempt to retell Hardy's novel was adapted into a screenplay by David Nicholls (Great Expectations) and Thomas Vinterberg (The Hunt) directed. Bathsheba (Carey Mulligan, The Great Gatsby) is the owner of a farm and over the course of the film we learn there are three men vying for her attention. The first is Gabriel (Mattias Schoenaerts, The Drop), a farmhand who is loyal to Bathsheba, even asking her for her hand in marriage despite barely knowing her; William Boldwood (Michael Sheen, The Damned United) is older and like Bathsheba, owns his own farm; Sergeant Troy (Tom Sturridge, On the Road). She deals with her feelings for each of them, they deal with their feelings for her over time.
Strangely enough, I found myself enjoying this film more than my wife who I presumed would fit right into the target demo for it. I think what appeared to be about Far From the Madding Crowd is that there seemed to be a patience to allow the storylines to develop organically and let relationships develop over time. It was why when in the first act, Gabriel's proposal to Bathsheba looked silly, but when they bumped into each other once again, the feelings did not seem to change, and the chemistry Mulligan and Schoenaerts shared was kind of adorable.
Additionally, Vinterberg makes the other prospects appealing in various ways. In Boldwood, there may be some wisdom and stability that Bathsheba could want, and in Troy, there is brashness and almost palpable virility that she could also gravitate to, without knowing the downside of his character. Both Sheen and Sturridge turn in fine performances in their respective roles.
As Bathsheba, Mulligan handles the role nicely. We see her emotion without it coming across as over-expressive, her chemistry with the men is good and she carries the bulk of the film effortlessly and with a degree of grace. Schoenaerts also includes mention for his emotion and feelings that we see in the movie, showing a vulnerability and almost innocence that reminded me of his performance in Rust and Bone. The Belgian continues to show his emotional range in a variety of movies.
Regardless of who may have written the novel, Far From the Madding Crowd impresses with the work of its actors and the story it tells. It is one of the better romance films in my recent memory (possibly since the aforementioned Rust and Bone) because the romance evolves through the story and the characters experience it, without having to have the characters talk about how much they're in love or how much conflict they possess. Good work Mr. Hardy.The Blu-ray:
Far From the Madding Crowd is presented with the AVC codec and in 2.35:1 widescreen by Fox, and the results are excellent. The English countrysides not only possess a vivid shade of grade, but the yellows and oranges of the sun in faces and in backgrounds are gorgeous. Image detail in textures and in exteriors looks razor sharp and has some multidimensional looks to them, and the film even possesses some film grain during viewing to boot. All in all a wonderful transfer by Fox.The Sound:
DTS-HD Master Audio which does not get too much of a chance to stretch its legs out, but reproduces the original material quite effectively. You get thuds of things hitting the beach, and the crashing waves which actually does enough to engage the subwoofer. Noise of the various farms sound natural and conveys a bit of immersion to boot, with subtle panning and directional activity. Quite the effective listening material.Extras:
Nine deleted scenes (17:54), including an alternate ending, kick things off. And aside from an angrier Sheen and a chestier Sergeant Troy, not much here. The alternate ending was cute, but unnecessary. Next are a bunch of featurettes for the film: "Bathsheba Everdene" (3:17) includes the cast and crew sharing their thoughts on the character and on the performer portraying same. This tact is similarly repeated in "Gabriel Oak" (2:22), "William Boldwood" (2:34) and "Sergeant Troy" (2:26), and one on the men in the film, titled "The Suitors" (3:56). "Adapting Far From the Maddening Crowd" (4:32) is pretty much that, as the differences and decisions on adapting the book are recalled. "The Look of Far From the Maddening Crowd" (5:08) covers the visual style, hair, makeup and wardrobe for the film and the intent for each character. "The Locations of Far From the Maddening Crowd" (5:03) is also self-explanatory as to what it covers and how it covers it, and "Thomas Vinterberg" (4:07) looks at the film's director. A stills gallery and trailer (1:38) complete things, along with a digital copy.Final Thoughts:
I hardly know if Far From the Madding Crowd is true to its source, but in terms of the genre I enjoyed it quite a bit, and I am not normally one for 19th century England romantic dramas. Technically, the disc looks and sounds excellent, though the supplemental materials, albeit brief, do tend to get a bit tiresome. It is definitely a watch for couples and the performances are better than most in the area.