I first found this film when Charleybrown, my fellow blogger and period film enthusiast, mentioned a great place to watch period dramas. I'm not a great fan of Thomas Hardy novels (Tess, The Woodlanders, so sad and sinful) but I did enjoy The Mayor of Casterbridge and Under the Greenwood Tree (if only for the actors in them) so I thought I'd try watching one.
Far From The Madding Crowd was first on my list and as I began watching it I looked up the story synopsis on Wikipedia and sighed inwardly because it sounded like another tale of misery. The story is essentially about one woman and three men who court her. The novel was first published in 1874 and was Thomas Hardy's fourth novel and first real literary success.
The main character is Bathsheba Everdene (this story supports my theory that no one named after sinful Biblical characters will have prosperous happy lives), a young woman who though poor is intelligent and has been well educated. The first of her suitors is a shepherd Gabriel Oak who proposes to her when she is poor and she valuing her independence refuses him. A reverse in their circumstance soon occurs, Bathsheba inherits her wealthy uncle's farm while Gabriel looses everything when his sheep are run over a cliff.
When Gabriel and Bathsheba next meet he shows his leadership skills by directing a group of men trying to save Bathsheba's farm from fire. In need of a new Shepherd she reluctantly offers Gabriel the job and he works well for her. Enter suitor number two, the well respected middle-aged farmer Mr. Boldwood who is first attracted to Bathsheba when she sends him a joke Valentine that says "Marry Me". Mr. Boldwood takes the Valentine seriously and soon becomes infatuated with Bathsheba even asking her to marry him. Bathsheba is smart enough to know that it would be a secure match but she keeps putting Mr. Boldwood off. Whether she's waiting for Gabriel to propose again or values her independence, everything changes when superficially charming Sergeant Frank Troy comes into town and sweeps her off her feet. After they elope a series of horrible circumstances come which help Bathsheba to know that she's made the wrong choice!
Although it is a sad story of misunderstandings and wrong choices one character rises above all the others as a great hero. No matter what happens the quiet shepherd Gabriel Oak plods along making the right moral choices. Through all that Bathsheba does Gabriel loves her unconditionally and is always there with sound advise. He helps save her farm on many occasions and rises in fame in the county eventually managing two farms at once. There is nothing improper in his conduct and he gently wins Bathsheba's heart through his loyalty and kindness. A gem of a hero with a depth of character that takes our heroine the whole film to discover!
Overall I would not generally recommend this film, though it is rated PG it does contain language and some themes such as lust, premarital relations, unwed mothers, death and violence that are often harsh though fairly well done in this filming.
I do "like" it better than some other Thomas Hardy stories, but that's not saying much! When you watch an adaptation of his novels you have to be prepared for everything to go wrong. In this way his stories become rather predictable, if you look at a scene and say this seems nice just think of every way it could go wrong and it will!
An older filming with a good script and wonderful acting. Paloma Baeza who I recognized from The Way We Live Now, is youthful and pretty as Bathsheba Everdene. Seasoned actor Nathaniel Parker (who I enjoy as Inspector Lynley and love in Bleak House!) is excellent as Gabriel Oak. And even Jonathan Firth (younger brother of Colin Firth and wonderful as Prince Albert) did a wonderful job portraying the unsteady and complicated Seargant Frank Troy. It was interesting seein him portray a bad boy this time.
It ended well though, if sadly. I think this is my first negative review! :)