Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) finds herself torn between three suitors in Thomas Vinterberg’s Far From the Madding Crowd. There’s the honest, earthy masculinity of Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), the restrained respectability of wealthy William Boldwood (Michael Sheen) and the hot-blooded lustfulness of Sergeant Francis Troy (Tom Sturridge). Vinterberg establishes Miss Everdene’s independence amidst gorgeous, pastoral English scenery, and then incessantly erodes that independence with the demands of these men and her inherited farmland.
Despite the story’s age – it’s adapted from Thomas Hardy’s 1874 classic – there’s a spark of feminism to the tale … even if it’s a spark dulled through prolonged exposure to the patriarchy of the time. Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s gorgeous landscape cinematography is as purposeful as it is painterly, hinting at the tormented loyalties of emotions of its inhabitants. And Mulligan is fantastic as always, revealing Everdene’s irrepressible girlish spirit through barely-concealed mischievous grins.
It’s a lovely film, but it reminds me of the critical cliché “dramatic beats.” Overused, perhaps, but it hints at the importance of rhythm in a great film – rhythm spoiled by the film’s race to unfold a complex tale in under two hours, often at the expense of emotion. A half hour from greatness.