Challenge Week 51: Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)

Lately if you ask me whether I’m into costume dramas and period films, I’d say nah, not really. And then something like this comes along and reminds me that actually, I am. I watched quite a bit of this kind of thing as a teenager – films based on Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, etc, and loved them, but for some reason I’ve kind of fallen off the period train, and I don’t know why, because there are lots of more recent examples I’ve loved too.

I’ve avoided reading Thomas Hardy (even in grad school, when I was, uh, supposed to read Tess of the d’Urbervilles and didn’t…shhhh) because I have a preconception of his work as pessimistic and depressing. But this film came across much more like Austen or Henry James than I expected, with Carey Mulligan as the independent young Bathsheba Everdeen who juggles three different suitors who offer her wildly different things. It’s kind of a cliche, I suppose (especially given how easily I can compare parts of it to other similar stories from this time period), but the whole thing worked for me like blazes.

Mulligan is usually though not always great for me, and this lands as another hit for her in my books. Meanwhile, Michael Sheen steals the supporting part of the film with his understated older gentlemen who offers respect and security but little passion. I was meh on the dashing young officer Troy, but I mean, he’s a jackass. And I was just as in love with Matthias Schoenaerts’ shepherd as Bathsheba should’ve been throughout.

I’ve never seen any other Thomas Vinterberg films, but I know of several that I should have seen, and will certainly be seeing more out now. It’s shot beautifully, with an eye for composition and movement that far exceeds a lot of more rote period adaptations. His direction gives the film an energy rivaling my favorite recent period pieces like Mansfield Park (1999) or Pride and Prejudice (2005).

There are some leaps of logic and almost deus ex machina moments that strain credulity if you feel like having your credulity strained, but those go back to Hardy and I’m willing to let them pass. I found the ending so satisfying that I actually had to look it up and see if they’d changed it from the book, but no – I’m now way more willing to invest time in reading Hardy that I was before, so there’s another bonus.

Stats and stuff…

2015, UK
directed by Thomas Vinterberg, written by David Nicholls
starring Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple

I’m ranking all my Challenge films on Flickchart (as I do all the films I see), a movie-ranking website that asks you to choose your favorite between two movies until it builds a ranked list of your favorites. Just for fun, I will average out the rankings and keep a running tally of whose recommendations rank the highest. When you add a film to Flickchart, it pits it against films already on your chart to see where it should fall. Here’s how Far from the Madding Crowd entered my chart:

Far from the Madding Crowd > Flags of Our Fathers
Far from the Madding Crowd > Changing Husbands
Far from the Madding Crowd < The Three Musketeers (1973)
Far from the Madding Crowd > Moana
Far from the Madding Crowd < Gilda
Far from the Madding Crowd < Desperado
Far from the Madding Crowd < Pickup on South Street
Far from the Madding Crowd < Interstellar
Far from the Madding Crowd < The Mask of Zorro
Far from the Madding Crowd > Edge of Tomorrow
Far from the Madding Crowd < Excalibur
Far from the Madding Crowd < Intimate Lighting

Final #697 out of 3741 (81%)

It is now my #1 Thomas Vinterberg film (of 1, gotta get on that), my #4 Carey Mulligan film, my #1 Michael Sheen film, my #21 Costume Romance, and my #5 film of 2015.

Far from the Madding Crowd was recommended by my cousin Beth. Averaging together this #697 ranking with my #1052 ranking of her other film, Joe Versus the Volcano, gives Beth an average ranking of 874.

A Few More Screenshots…