Last week it was Flaubert’s Madame Bovary starring Mia Wasikowska in the the title role. This week another adaptation of a nineteenth century novel with a woman as the central character – Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd.
The demise of Emma Bovary is classic tragedy (except in Sophie Barthes dull version) whereas Bathsheba Everdene’s Dorset story is a celebration of her fierce independence. And director Thomas Vinterberg’s version is certainly a handsome one, with lots of warm, late afternoon sunlight bathing proceedings.
But that, sadly, is the only warmth in the film. The 2015 version of Far From the Madding Crowd (there’s lots more, including the classic 1967 John Schlesinger adaptation starring Julie Christie, Terence Stamp and Peter Finch) shares a stilted disjointedness and lack of naturalism with Madame Bovary.
Carey Mulligan (An Education, Shame) and, in particular, Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust & Bone, The Drop) certainly try hard but the film’s main problem is that it’s saccharine sweet, abetted by an overlush soundtrack. Which is surprising as Vinterberg is responsible for one of the best films of 2012 – the powerful and unsettling Danish feature The Hunt.