Re­turn visit to Hardy coun­try

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews - David Strat­ton

Far from the Madding Crowd (M) Na­tional re­lease from Thurs­day In­side Out (G) Na­tional re­lease

Per­haps be­cause I was born and raised in Wilt­shire, the English county that — to­gether with Dorset — com­prises the fic­tional Wes­sex fea­tured in the nov­els of Thomas Hardy, I have al­ways loved this au­thor whose writ­ing so ro­man­ti­cally and evoca­tively cap­tures the essence of that part of Eng­land. When, in 1967, John Sch­lesinger filmed Hardy’s novel Far from the Madding Crowd, he used the Wilt­shire town of De­vizes, which I knew in­ti­mately as a child, for scenes set in the fic­tional Caster­bridge.

Dan­ish di­rec­tor Thomas Vin­ter­berg made a new ver­sion of

that is for the most part im­pres­sive, de­spite some flaws. Vin­ter­berg and his di­rec­tor of pho­tog­ra­phy, Char­lotte Bruus Christensen, filmed on au­then­tic Dorset lo­ca­tions: the farm­yards, the 19th-cen­tury houses and the land­scape are all lov­ingly cap­tured for the wide screen. If it strikes you as strange that a Dan­ish team should have filmed such a quintessen­tially English novel, it shouldn’t; one of the best films based on a Hardy novel, Ro­man Polan­ski’s Tess, was made by a Pole who wasn’t able to film in Bri­tain at all and was forced to recre­ate Wes­sex in France, and his Tess was a Ger­man ac­tor, Nas­tassja Kin­ski.

In Vin­ter­berg’s film the won­der­fully named hero­ine, Bathsheba Ever­dene, is played by the ex­cel­lent Carey Mul­li­gan, the di­vine Daisy from Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, and she’s as close to per­fect in the role as it’s pos­si­ble to be. Bathsheba is an in­de­pen­dent woman at a time when women were not known for their in­de­pen­dence; when she in­her­its a farm near the coast, she is de­ter­mined to run the place her­self in her own way — and she sees no rea­son why she should marry a man she doesn’t love, (“I’d hate to be some man’s prop­erty”).

Bathsheba be­comes in­volved with three men dur­ing the course of the novel and film. Gabriel Oak, played by the Bel­gian ac­tor Matthias Schoe­naerts, is her neigh­bour and suitor, but when his en­tire flock of sheep, lem­ming-like,

June 20-21, 2015

has plunges over a cliff, he’s forced to be­come Bathsheba’s loyal em­ployee. Then there is Wil­liam Bold­wood (Michael Sheen), a gen­tle­man farmer and the wealth­i­est man in the dis­trict, but a shy and awk­ward suitor.

The man who catches Bathsheba’s eye, how­ever, is a soldier, Sergeant Frank Troy ( Tom Stur­ridge), a dash­ing rake whose scar­let uni­form gives him a def­i­nite air of mas­cu­line au­thor­ity. But Troy proves to be a weak man whose se­duc­tion of Fanny (Juno Tem­ple), a ser­vant girl, leads to tragedy.

Vin­ter­berg has cer­tainly come a long way since he was co-sig­na­tory to the short-lived Dogme 95 Man­i­festo with Lars von Trier. Dogme, you may re­call, was an ab­surd char­ter of self-im­posed rules for film­mak­ers that in­cluded such stric­tures as the ban­ning of mu­sic and the com­mand that ac­tors should wear their own clothes.

All that is, thank­fully, in the past, and Far from the Madding Crowd boasts a stir­ring mu­sic score com­posed by Craig Armstrong.

A great deal of the film is as good as you could wish. Yet the screen­play, by David Ni­cholls, feels trun­cated, al­most like a Reader’s Di­gest ver­sion of the book. The film runs just un­der two hours, whereas Sch­lesinger’s ver­sion ran for al­most three.

Par­tic­u­larly short changed in this adap­ta­tion is Fanny, whose char­ac­ter seems to have

Far from the Madding Crowd; In­side Out pretty much ended up on the cut­ting-room floor. Her ar­rival at the wrong church for her mar­riage to Troy here seems rather ridicu­lous, es­pe­cially since the reper­cus­sions are so dire.

Also prob­lem­atic is the cast­ing. Mul­li­gan, as noted, is pretty near per­fect (as was Julie Christie in 1967) but Schoe­naerts, though he looks the part, never con­vinces as a Dorset (or Wes­sex) farmer in the way Alan Bates did. (The ac­cent is all wrong). Nor is Michael Sheen, for all his pained suf­fer­ing, any­where near as ef­fec­tive as Peter Finch in the role.

On the other hand, Stur­ridge cap­tures the haughty ar­ro­gance of Troy pretty well, though mem­o­ries of Ter­ence Stamp still linger.

It’s un­fair, I know, to make com­par­isons be­tween two films made al­most 50 years apart. The good news is that, even with these flaws, Hardy’s story is as fresh and mod­ern as ever it was in this new ver­sion, and that Bathsheba’s char­ac­ter (“I shall as­ton­ish you all!”) is trans­lated to con­tem­po­rary screens pretty much as Hardy de­scribed her back in 1874. Pixar, the cut­ting-edge an­i­mated stu­dio that to­day is part of the vast Dis­ney em­pire, has an al­most un­beat­able track record for pro­duc­ing rel­e­vant and orig­i­nal fea­tures and shorts, in­clud­ing the Toy Story films, Find­ing Nemo, Cars, Wall-E and many more. its latest, is the stu­dio’s most orig­i­nal and in­ven­tive film yet, given that al­most all of it takes place in­side the head of an 11-year-old girl.

The film, co-di­rected by Pete Doc­ter and Ron­nie Del Car­men, pro­poses that in­side the brains of all of us are lo­cated the five emo­tions, and they con­trol what we do and what we re­mem­ber. Tak­ing as its sub­ject Ri­ley (voiced by Kait­lyn Dias), we en­ter her head to dis­cover the brain’s head­quar­ters, where the Emo­tions op­er­ate a con­trol panel that looks like some­thing from the cock­pit of an air­liner or space­ship. Joy (Amy Poehler), colour-coded yel­low, seems to be in charge — at least she’s the bossy one, but she’s re­spon­si­ble for Ri­ley’s hap­pi­ness. Then there’s Sad­ness (Phyl­lis Smith), blue; Fear (Bill Hader), vi­o­let; Anger (Lewis Black), red; and Dis­gust (Mindy Kal­ing), green.

For most of her child­hood, liv­ing with her par­ents (Kyle Ma­cLach­lan, Diane Lane) in Min­nesota, Ri­ley has been happy and Joy has reigned supreme. But Ri­ley’s Dad has ac­quired a new job in far­away San Fran­cisco, and Ri­ley has to leave be­hind friends and her se­cu­rity for a scary new city, unattrac­tive apart­ment, and threat­en­ing new school. Here’s where the other Emo­tions dis­place Joy in the lit­tle girl’s life.

Then there are Ri­ley’s Mem­o­ries, vir­tu­ally all of them joy­ous so far, that are stored in globes (colour-coded of course) and placed in the stor­age rooms of her brain. Here, too, are other el­e­ments that are part of her life: Imag­i­na­tion, Sub­con­scious (a pretty scary place) and Dreams.

It’s a won­der­fully in­trigu­ing con­cept that, de­spite tack­ling themes that kids may never have con­sid­ered, seems cer­tain to ap­peal, thanks to its very orig­i­nal­ity.

When things go wrong, as of course they do, and both Joy and Sad­ness are ac­ci­den­tally ejected from the con­trol room, leav­ing Ri­ley’s emo­tions in the not-too-ca­pa­ble hands of Anger, Fear and Dis­gust, the film en­ters dra­matic ter­ri­tory, and Ri­ley’s young life takes a darker turn. But the film has a pos­i­tive mes­sage for chil­dren, not least the fact that Sad­ness — and the other Emo­tions — are part and par­cel of all our lives, even the lives of an­i­mals (an amus­ing touch, this).

In­side Out is de­signed and pre­sented with the ac­cus­tomed skill and in­ven­tion that have been the hall­mark of Pixar pro­duc­tions and, as is cus­tom­ary, is pre­ceded by a short film, Lava —a whim­si­cal piece about a lovesick vol­cano.

Carey Mul­li­gan, above, in

left, char­ac­ters, from left, Anger, Dis­gust, Joy, Fear and Sad­ness

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.