A 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’re 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 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).