Based on the literary classic by Thomas Hardy, this is a remake of the 1967 MGM version starring Julie Christie, Terence Stamp, Peter Finch and Alan Bates. I watched it in the early ’70s when I was studying Thomas Hardy’s novel Tess of the d’Urberevilles for English Literature because my teacher said it’s important that we acquaint ourselves with as many of Hardy’s works as possible (so I read quite a few of his novels and poems), and not just concentrate on the set text in order to better understand Hardy.
This 2015 Twentieth Century Fox version stars Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Tom Sturridge and Michael Sheen. Mullligan plays Bathesheba Everdene, an independent woman who attracts three different suitors: a sheep farmer, a dashing soldier and a prosperous, older bachelor.
Watching this movie is almost like re-reading the book. The adaptation reminds me of the complexity in all of Hardy’s characters. It is dense and difficult at times, and thinking at others. There are lots of character study, besides the plot and the themes of fortune and fate.
Bathesheba is a passionate, exciting, liberated, strong woman ahead of her time. She steps into men’s world and takes order from no one. She is a very, very complex character: fiesty, independent, selfish and rude, and is incredibly fascinating. She is a woman who knows her mind and refuses to be tamed, and is honest about how she feels about the world and the people.
Her three suitors are:
Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts)- simple, humble, loyal, reliable and has qualities everybody wants to have;
Sgt Frank Troy (Tom Sturridge)- a smooth talker, like a ‘bad’ guy, a fascinating character who makes people laugh, is likeable yet extremely arrogant;
and William Boldwood (Martin Sheen)- middle-aged and wealthy, representing security, safety and tradition and who is quite separate from the rest of the community and willing to protect Bathesheba for the rest of his life.
These men are fantastic characters with great depths, and each brings something to the mind of Bathesheba.
The locations of this movie add to Hardy’s sense of place. They are rich and original, and matches language to mood. There is a kind of sensuality in all the stunning imagery that help carry out the essence of the story.
The landscapes of the country are completely authentic. The very, very rural nature of Dorset is irreplaceable. It is both dramatic and unique; for example the cliff which is epic and from which a beautiful view is captured. The quality of country life has somethiing like magic; for example the beautiful Jacobean house, a proper manor, the stately homes and farms. The amazing countryside in a sweep on the screen is very inspiring.
There is a sense of grandeur in this old-fashioned epic. Ultimately, this is a novel about fate, a recurring theme in Thomas Hardy. I have always loved Hardy because his stories are among the best in English Literature!