Far From the Madding Crowd (1998)

Reviewer: Rissi C.

 

Recently seeing both the 1998 and 1960s version of Far from the Madding Crowd, I've decided to review the newer version for two reasons; overall the performances are better in the 98 version, and they are exactly the same story and my preference tends more towards the newer adaptation.

 

In countryside of Weatherbury, lovely Bathsheba Everdene (Paloma Baeza) lives with her aunt in a simple cottage. Being an independent woman, Bathsheba likes to have her own way with things and she doesn't want anyone to think someone has any power over her. When nearby farmer Gabriel Oak (Nathaniel Parker) meets her, he is instantly in love with her. So much so that he proposes to her only to be rejected by the impulsive young woman. Shortly after she rejects him, Bathsheba learns that her uncle has died and left his property to her. Moving to her uncles farm, Bathsheba meets her uncles servants, who are very jittery about their new mistress, wondering whether or not they will keep their job. Shortly after her arrival at the farm, the ricks catch fire and a passing stranger alerts the hands, getting it put out before too much damage is done. 

 

Meeting the man who saved her barn, Bathsheba is surprised to realize it is Gabriel who, after an unfortunate twist of fate, has lost his farm. Giving Gabriel a job as a Shepard, as long as he wont speak of their past, Bathsheba who knows nothing of running a farm soon shows the neighboring farmers that she wont be taken advantage of. She particularly catches the eye of Mr. Boldwood (Nigel Terry). As the busyness of haying and learning to run her farm swirls around her, Bathsheba continues to attract both Gabriel and Farmer Boldwood, but neither can offer her what she's looking for; a man who can tame her. When the womanizing, but dashing soldier Frank Troy (Jonathan Firth) comes on the scene, two men could be ruined, as only one man will capture the heart of independently minded Bathsheba. 

 

Thomas Hardy isn't my favorite classic author, but that doesn't mean I don't think he couldn't write a dynamic story. Most of his dramas are very intriguing and worth watching, but this is the slowest moving saga I've seen by him. The costumes are rather simple and without much color to them, but there is a few dresses that were lovely. Some performances were first-rate and others lacked passion. The most impressive acting came from Nathaniel Parker. You really can see his steadfast love for Bathsheba, depicted not only through his actions but his consistencies. Even after she turns him down, he never abandons her. Jonathan Firth was a bit of a cad and has some very odd personality traits. I had some hope that maybe in this version they would make him more normal, but at least his scenes with Bathsheba aren't as bizarre as they are in the old version. 

    

Despite the fact that some of the characters are just plain unlikable, there is something fascinating about this drama of ruin and despair. Bathsheba, Troy and Boldwood are impetuous, deceitful and obsessed, and by the end I found myself reflecting on the many passions involved and who was the most at fault for their different fates. This is ultimately a story of a girl who, through jealousy, loses her innocence, and the man who stands by her so unfalteringly. It is quite dark in places, so if you are looking for lighter entertainment, I would recommend Under the Greenwood Tree, which is a very similar storyline only much lighter and has stronger performances.

    

  

Sexual Content:

We see a woman on top of a man in a barn, moving sexually; implications of pregnancy outside wedlock; a man lifts his wife against the wall and starts kissing her neck; we see a naked man from a distance (behind) leaping into the ocean. While out walking in the fields, a couple begin kissing and he puts his hand up her shirt, before she pulls away.

  

Language:

Profanities, mild abuses of deity, one abuse of Jesus' name.

  

Violence:

Sheep fall off a cliff and are killed; a man shoots a dog (off-camera); a man punctures sheep to relieve them of bloat (saving their lives); a man is shot and killed.

 

Other:

None.