Dorset is in the grip of ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ fever. You can take your Cornish coastline and your scything six packs and shove them up a tin mine chimney. It’s our turn for the spotlight now and we are loving it. The question on everyone’s lips is “Have you seen FFTMC yet?” so, in order to be able to roll with the Zeitgeist I thought I had better pop off to the cinema to see the film.
Despite being a resident of Casterbridge (albeit fairly recently) I have never read any Thomas Hardy, I didn’t even know the bare bones of the FFTMC story. The friend I went to see the film with, however, is a mad Hardy fan and has read the book many times so we really were coming at it from totally different directions.
We went to the Dorchester Plaza which is a fantastic local resource and still only charges £3.50 for a Saturday night ticket (£2.50 Monday to Friday – total bargain). The theatre was full with the chatter of excited Dorset folk waiting to play spot the location, and find the face in the crowd scenes – many locals were recruited as extras. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I didn’t expect to love this film as much as I did.
I was pretty much sold within the first 15 minutes when a tall and handsome Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts) strode across the field carrying a new born lamb. He presented Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) with the lamb and then asked her to marry him. Well, if that had been me I would have probably shrieked yes, flung myself at his feet, grabbed the lamb and dragged him off into the sunset. However, I do appreciate that this would make for a very short story and not much of a feature film. So, of course, Bathsehba said no and proceeded to juggle the affections of Gabriel and two other suitors along with managing an enormous farm and galloping around the place in a variety of lovely frocks.
Mulligan’s performance was, actually, perfect. She was sympathetic, believable and of course, beautiful. Michael Sheen trotted out his signature performance of a likeable loony tune and Tom Sturridge was a magnificent villain as the feckless and cruel Sergeant Francis Troy. The locations were beautiful although we didn’t see as much of Dorset as we thought we would. The flavour of rural Britain in Victorian times was portrayed in a palatable way, not too glitzy and not too grim.
A personal tick from me was the music score, I have a pet hate for film scores that jar or overtake the actual film. The score for this movie is, to my mind, perfect and flows gently like the rolling hills it was written to accompany. At a minute short of two hours I was expecting numb bum syndrome but the time shot past in a flash, we couldn’t believe it was the end and were left wanting more which is by far the best way to leave a cinema.
So – a huge thumbs up for ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’. It went a long way towards curing my Poldark withdrawal symptoms and satisfied both a Hardy ignoramus and a Hardy expert which was a pretty tall order. Have you seen the film? What did you think?