“Far From The Madding Crowd”
The Good News is that the movie
follows the plot of the classic novel very closely.
Thomas Hardy wrote the book in 1874, at a time when England was enjoying
the last generation of its long and prosperous reign as a world economic
superpower. The two World Wars of
the early 20th century would prove that the idyllic time imagined by
Mr. Hardy in the bountiful English countryside was, indeed, an illusion of an
But in the 1870’s, at least, the
English were fascinated with Hardy’s tale of Bathsheba Everdene, a pretty
young lass who enjoys a series of romances.
(Yes, the name is reminiscent of Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist of
“The Hunger Games” trilogy…or vice versa.)
What’s strange for Christians is to hear Bathsheba’s overdub in the
very first scene, wondering how her (now-deceased) parents ever came up with
such a strange name, and she says she never found out.
(Uh, hello, anybody there ever heard of the Bible?)
But maybe the biblical inference isn’t all that accidental.
The Bathsheba of scripture was evidently a woman of great beauty; enough
to move kings to do foolishly impulsive things just to have her, but somehow not
only her love life, but her life itself, was dependent on the whims of jealous
Carrie Mulligan is definitely
pretty enough to convince us viewers that her beauty will move men to do
foolishly impulsive things. First
she meets Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), the next-door landowner who
bluntly proposes to her without so much as a curtsy toward romance.
Bathsheba, though not a woman of means at this point, declines his
impetuous offer because she values too much her independence.
Then both of their lives are changed by circumstance:
he loses his sheep farm, but she inherits her Uncle’s estate, and
suddenly he’s working for her as a laborer, which makes their friendship a
little awkward, at best. But he
hangs around because he’s still interested in making sure she’s OK, and she,
meanwhile, relishes being the woman in charge of her own large working farm.
But soon she is courted by a
neighboring farmer, William Boldwood (Michael Sheen).
The problem is that economically, it would make sense to combine their
adjacent plantations, and he’s an awfully nice guy, but there just isn’t any
spark there for her. Wanting to keep
her options open, she shamelessly leads him on, apparently hoping something more
interesting will come along. Enter
Sergeant Francis Troy (Tom Sturridge), a swashbuckling soldier with just enough
dash and verve to stir up a temporary passion. He’s finally the one who
succeeds in seducing her to marry him, but she quickly discovers that he is a
rogue, a gambler, and a bully, and doesn’t really care for her, anyway.
Well, Bathsheba isn’t the first pretty girl to reject the suitable,
safe suitors and fall for the bad boy instead:
with wearying unintended consequences, and the faintly tragic air of
Director Thomas Vinterberg goes
for the whole late-Victorian era formality of dress and decorum, and
intersperses the noble air with lovely nature shots, and vistas of peaceful
farmland. It’s all about as
sublime as a cup of lukewarm afternoon tea with crumpets.
And about as exciting.
Questions For Discussion:
When have you rejected the safe, mature choice for the edgy, risky
one? How did that work out for you?
How does the biblical Bathsheba’s life mirror that of Bathsheba
How does the life of Bathsheba Everdene mirror that of Katniss Everdeen?
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Supply Pastor, First
Presbyterian Church, Kaufman, Texas