Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - ON STAGE -

Carey Mul­li­gan, Matthias Schoe­naerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Stur­ridge, Juno Tem­ple, Jes­sica Bar­den RE­CENT re-re­lease of John Sch­lesinger’s 1967 ver­sion of Far From The Madding Crowd pro­vided a timely re­minder of the raw emo­tional power of Thomas Hardy’s late 19th-cen­tury novel and Julie Christie’s lu­mi­nous por­trayal of spir­ited hero­ine, Bathsheba Ever­dene.

Dan­ish direc­tor Thomas Vin­ter­berg brings a del­i­cate touch to this hand­some new in­car­na­tion, which runs 50 min­utes shorter than its pre­de­ces­sor and is un­der­nour­ished as a con­se­quence.

One tragic sup­port­ing char­ac­ter, who should shat­ter our hearts to smithereens, is re­duced to a sim­plis­tic two-di­men­sional plot de­vice and the hero­ine’s vac­il­la­tions be­tween three po­ten­tial suit­ors seem more hap­haz­ard than usual in a no­tice­ably rushed fi­nal act.

More­over, one of th­ese paramours has sig­nif­i­cantly more screen time, so her choice is in­evitable.

Feel­ings are tightly but­toned be­neath Janet Pat­ter­son’s splen­did cos­tumes and when one of the char­ac­ters does even­tu­ally lose con­trol and com­mits a fa­tal ‘crime of pas­sion’ at a Christ­mas party, we are just as sur­prised by the out­burst as the film’s clucky so­cial set.

The film opens in 1870 with Bathsheba (Carey Mul­li­gan) living with her aunt Mrs Hurst on the ad­ja­cent prop­erty to hand­some sheep farmer, Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoe­naerts).

She re­buffs his heart­felt ad­vances, telling a crest­fallen Gabriel: “I don’t want a hus­band. I don’t want to be some man’s prop­erty”.

Soon af­ter, Bathsheba in­her­its her un­cle’s vast es­tate and de­fies ex­pec­ta­tion to turn around the ail­ing farm, aided by her com­pan­ion Liddy (Jes­sica Bar­den).

Gabriel, who has fallen on hard times, is hired by Bathsheba as the es­tate’s shep­herd and con­tin­ues to pine for her from afar.

Mean­while, emo­tion­ally re­pressed and wealthy farmer Wil­liam Bold­wood (Michael Sheen) makes his feel­ings for Bathsheba known, but her head is turned by dash­ing and reck­less Sergeant Troy (Tom Stur­ridge), whose heart was bro­ken at the al­tar by ser­vant girl Fanny (Juno Tem­ple).

Th­ese three suit­ors leave Bathsheba in an emo­tional whirl and when Bold­wood of­fers her fi­nan­cial se­cu­rity as his bride, she turns to brood­ing Gabriel for ad­vice.

“I need some­one who’s ob­jec­tive, in­dif­fer­ent,” Fanny tells the shep­herd.

“Then I’m afraid you’re ask­ing the wrong man,” point­edly re­sponds Gabriel.

An­chored by Mul­li­gan’s nu­anced per­for­mance, Far From The Madding Crowd is a vis­ually ar­rest­ing, but ul­ti­mately anaemic por­trait of ru­ral de­sires.

Schoe­naerts wres­tles in vain with a West Coun­try ac­cent, while Sheen and Stur­ridge have limited screen time to match fond mem­o­ries of Peter Finch and Terence Stamp in re­spec­tive roles in the 1967 film.

While Vin­ter­berg’s vi­sion, filmed on lo­ca­tion in pas­toral Dorset, Ox­ford­shire and Buck­ing­hamshire, lacks emo­tional heft, it packs a mighty vis­ual punch thanks to cine­matog­ra­pher Char­lotte Bruus Chris­tensen.

Rolling land­scapes look invit­ingly wild and un­tamed, bathed largely in nat­u­ral light, and the nascent beauty of lead­ing lady Mul­li­gan shines through the art­fully com­posed muck and grime.

Cer­tifi­cate 12A Stars

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