Headstrong and passionate Bathsheba Everdene (Julie Christie) unexpectedly inherits a large farm in rural Dorset. Struggling to manage the farm herself, she captivates the hearts and minds of three very different men: an honest and hardworking sheep farmer, (Alan Bates) a wealthy but tortured landowner (Peter Finch) and a reckless and violent swordsman (Terence Stamp). But as emotions become entangled, free spirited and innocent folly soon leads to devastating tragedy.
Superb photography - deserves to be seen on a big screen
- Far from the Madding Crowd review by RP
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You rated this film: 5
I had recently seen Terence Stamp in 'The Collector' and thought I'd see him in this classic 1960s film of the Thomas Hardy novel. I has also seen the 1998 made-for-TV version and thought it was about time I saw the 'proper' film version again - I did see it at the cinema waaaaaaaay back in 1967 or '68 when I were but a lad, but not since, and I remembered it as spectacular.
My memory hadn't failed me - this is a beautifully photographed film with an evocative soundtrack. Rarely has the Dorset / Wiltshire countryside looked so good - and rarely has Julie Christie looked so good. And therein lies the first problem...
Julie Christie is an iconic 1960s actress - and here she appears in 1960s makeup and while she acts well the part of the young, strong-minded woman farmer Bathsheba Everdene she just doesn't 'feel' right for the role as a Victorian farmer. The roles of Bathsheba's other suitors loyal, hard working Gabriel Oak (Allan Bates), lonely gentleman farmer William Boldwood (Peter Finch) and the dastardly Sergeant Frank Troy (Terence Stamp) are all well played, and it's Peter Finch who gives the stand-out performance.
But - and here's the second problem - the film is played out as a three-cornered romantic race for Bathsheba's hand in marriage, but Thomas Hardy's novel is far deeper than that. It illustrates not only rural life but the divisions of class and the dramatic use of tragedy: Troy, Troy's true love Fanny and Boldwood all come to tragic ends and the story is essentially a series of tragic or at best unfortunate incidents linked by a few happy interludes. But John Schlesinger's film and Frederic Raphael's script seem to me to concentrate on the romantic aspects and while the tragic incidents are present they are rapidly over and done with.
The accents are a bit of a mish-mash but there is no attempt at mock West Country accents, which is probably a good thing.
Having said all that, this an excellent film and I like it very much. Because of the superb photography (it really deserves to be seen on a big screen) and Peter Finch's performance I'll give it 5/5 stars.
[Aside 1: The Director of Photography was Nicolas Roeg, who also went on to a very successful directing career]
[Aside 2: The fiddler at the barn dance is Dave Swarbrick, who went on to great things as a member of 'Fairport Convention']
[Aside 3: The title comes from a line in Thomas Gray's poem 'Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard']
[Aside 4: Cinema Paradiso sent the Optimum Releasing DVD version. This is in the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio (unlike other versions) but the cockfighting scene has been cut - the BBFC site says by 24 sec. Unlike the cinema screening, the Intermission and interval music are not present. I think I'll acquire a copy of the 2009 Region 1 Warner Home Video DVD where these are all apparently present, just to see what I'm missing...]