Far from the Madding Crowd
Confession: I am a woman of contradictions, and I’m okay with that.
I’ve lately come to the conclusion that I don’t have to fit into a box, I can embrace my contradictions and still be true to who I am. Now maybe you’ve already come to that conclusion in your own life and I applaud you for it. So why you should care about my own revelation? Because it’s what drew me to watch Far From the Madding Crowd.
Despite having specialized in English literature, I haven’t read Thomas Hardy’s novel of the same name (contradictions abound, amiright?). The main reason for that is because some of his work can be rather tragic. I just don’t want to invest so many emotions into a character that’s going to end up so unhappy and maligned!
That being said, I really admire the man. Sure, he puts your emotions through the wringer but he makes a point. And many of those points are on the side of women, who were not considered people so much as they were considered property in his day. Enter Bathsheba Everdene, admirably played by Carey Mulligan (Suffragette).
Bathsheba is an orphan who lives with her aunt on a farm in the Dorset countryside. She grows close to a neighboring shepherd, Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts, A Little Chaos) but refuses his offer of marriage, claiming she values her independence too much. Fortunately for her, she’s able to keep that independence because her uncle dies and leaves her everything. She moves back to her childhood home and proceeds to prove herself as a generous employer with impressive business savvy. With hard work and steely determination, she’s able to rock the boat and hold her own in a man’s world.
Michael Sheen (Passengers) plays hopeful suitor #2, William Boldwood, and Tom Sturridge (Pirate Radio), plays the dashing but devious Sergeant Troy. Our heroine’s life grows increasingly complicated, but I’ll let you experience that for yourself. It’s easy to see why this story was ranked number 10 in this poll of greatest romances by The Guardian in 2007, 133 years after the novel’s original publication.
My roommate and I kept up an almost constant commentary while watching the film, increasingly agonized over Bathsheba’s choices. After it was over and we finished eating our feelings, we agreed that our ideal version of it would only have taken about ten minutes. But upon reflection I changed my mind, realizing this would be a rather disappointing alternative just to create a simpler, shallower love story. Because life includes the messy bits, doesn’t it? Like all of us, Bathsheba needed to make her own mistakes in order to understand what she truly wanted and valued in life and in her chosen hero.
Far From the Madding Crowd is about a woman that contradicts society’s expectations. She even contradicts herself quite a bit; she hates silly girls who run after men in uniforms, but she loses her wits over one too. I also found it interesting that the story involved so much role reversal. It isn’t often that the woman gains everything and is surrounded by men relying on her for various reasons, especially in the 1870’s. This inversion forces the viewer to see life through a different and rare lens. For that reason alone, you should watch this film.
If you need other reasons, here are a few that come to mind.
The score. is. incredible. In fact, I listened to it long before I saw the film. I could tell just from the movie posters plastered across the walls of the tube stations that it was going to be a film with a beautiful score, fantastic acting, stunning costumes, and award-winning cinematography (now that’s a well-designed poster!). You just come to expect certain things from posters that remind you of paintings, you know? And each shot of this film looked like a carefully designed painting.
Far From the Madding Crowd is a movie that I want to discuss with people. I want to drink it in, mull it over, and then pass around the coffee or wine (depends on the time of day, you know?). Because how often are we presented with a heroine that's so admirable in her revolutionary ways and yet so flawed that she remains on our level? Her character speaks to my strengths and to my status as a woman of contradictions. She's the sort of protagonist that lives a real journey… and who doesn't love that?