Film review of the romantic tragedy, based on the novel by Thomas Hardy and directed by Thomas Vinterberg and starring Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts.
To leave comments on this review, scroll to the bottom.
Director: Thomas Vinterberg. BBC/DNA/Fox Searchlight (12a)
Cast & credits
Producer: Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich.
Writer: David Nicholls.
Camera: Charlotte Bruus Christensen.
Music: Craig Armstrong.
Sets: Kave Quinn.
Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom Sturridge, Michael Sheen, Juno Temple, Jessica Barden, Bradley Hall.
Independent minded Bathsheba Everdeen (Mulligan) is proposed to by farmer Gabriel Oak (Schoenaerts). She turns him down, declaring she prefers to be single and not owned by a man, sentiments she repeats to a rich landowner (Sheen) after she mistakenly sends him a Valentines card. Tragedy unfolds when she impulsively marries the handsome army Sergeant Troy (Sturridge).
Hardy’s dreamy romantic novel has been most famously adapted for the big screen by director John Schlesinger and starring 60’s icon Julie Christie in the lead role.
This new adaptation is perhaps closer to Hardy’s examination of the rigid class structure and conventions at work in Victorian rural communities than that version and works primarily due to a highly skilled menage a quatre from a robust cast.
Bathsheba has a fine trio of men to court her. Schoenaerts continues to dominate modern cinematic drama (is there a film to be released he isn’t in?) with a solid turn as the dependable, upright and loyal Oak, her moral conscience and confessor. The English accent is passable, but certainly not of the South West, a region of England Hardy’s novels are proudly rooted in.
Young Sturridge is brash and impetuous but also psychologically tortured as a man capable of deeper love and cruelty than any of the other characters. Best of all is Sheen as the neurotic and unbalanced Boldwood whose stiff upper lip and reserve are swiftly loosened by desire.
Mulligan continues to impress as an actress with an amusingly confident, self-assured Bathsheba, a slightly supercilious porto-feminist, who smiles smugly but charmingly as she dithers with her suitors. More so, she is now a highly credible leading lady who commands this film with force of personality. Bathseheba is not a sympathetic character and Mulligan tries not to make you like her, but to admire her spirit and unconventional attitude to love and sex. It’s a rewarding time spent in her company.
Vinterberg has made a well-crafted film, the accent on natural-looking camerawork (the use of candle-light during night scenes are warmly beautiful), no flashy tricks, just letting the cinematographer focus on the lush landscapes. The scene where Troy seduces Bathsheba by revealing his swordsmanship crackles with phallocentric accuracy.
It’s odd that the moment Troy returns from the dead is not delivered with more shock and awe. He is revealed visiting Bathseba’s empty home first and then arriving at Boldwood’s Christmas party.
One trick that shouldn’t have been missed, but not enough to detract from the fact this is a very well-made movie.