Friday, February 20, 2015

A Maddening Decision

I absolutely adore, adore, Thomas Hardy's novel, Far from the Madding Crowd. I've never watched any of the film versions due to fear that it would erase my own imaginings; for I know the colour of Bathsheba's hair as well as the gait of Gabriel Oak's stride and his quiet countenance. I have seen the sheep grazing on the meadow, known the heat of the ricks as they burn in the night. I know the aged smell of the wood beams in the malt house and I am the sole designer of the furnishings in Mr. Boldwood's home. I do not wish to have my visions replaced by another's.

I, of course, had read of Thomas Vinterberg's upcoming adaptation and instantly knew it could be nothing short of magnificent. I had seen his previous films The Celebration, Submarino, and The Hunt and was impressed by all. Portraying Gabriel Oak is Matthias Schoenaerts. I feel that he is, without question, one of the finest actors ever to exist and I've seen nearly everything he's ever been involved in, save for a small handful of his short films (sidebar: what the fuck is the point of making short films if NO ONE ever gets a chance to see them??? Although god bless the Flemish for releasing SOME of Schoenaerts' short films, but come on, let the world see 'em for chrissake.). Schoenaerts as Oak would be extraordinary, but...even that might not be enough to tempt me to see the film.

Today I watched, with mild apprehension, a two and a half minute preview of Vinterberg's Madding Crowd and it looks spectacular. Beautifully shot, incredible cast (Carey Mulligan actually seems to make Bathsheba less cold than she seemed in the book and way more human), and if there is a part in a film that will make Mr. Schoenaerts a star in the States, it is this one. Gabriel Oak is a character that (dare I say it?) can out-swoon the likes of Mr. Darcy. Even still, I doubt I will bring myself to see the film when it is released in May. Who knows, maybe I'll be dead by then and won't have to make the decision at all.  
(As a lil' sidenote, while Matthias Schoenaerts is ideal for the role of Gabriel Oak, I envisioned Miss Everdene as Lana Parrilla, a raven haired beauty that could absolutely have more than a few men fall madly in love with her. I think she would have been perfect.)

(Matthias photo kidnapped from

(Post script - saw a late showing of the film on May 8th at the BMFI and in a word, disappointing. It felt rushed and the characters were under-developed, aside from Bathsheba. I knew that so much would be left out, but why would the writer not use the words of Thomas Hardy whenever possible. Did he think he could do a better job? I say nay-nay, sir. I pretty much went to see it for the silliest and girliest reason. I wanted to see Gabriel Oak kiss Miss Everdene. Sooo embarrassing to admit, but I knew the "Hollywood" version would deliver a smooch. There wasn't much chemistry and I think that's due in part to the race to the finish line. It needed to be a glorious, drawn out, three hour plus film that was strewn with the words of Thomas Hardy and rich with the longing that Oak felt for Bathsheba. It should have given us, the viewer, a deeper insight as to why Gabriel Oak adored her so. Oh and they butchered the ending! So much to complain about. Don't even get me started on the singing. Anytime a film shows a woman walking toward a pianoforte I know I'm in for something truly excruciating. I should have known it would be a let down when before the movie began I went into the peepod and discovered a cockroach the size of a rottweiler. A foreshadowing... Well, the good thing is thankfully, I have read the book so many times that my image of what occurred remains intact. Thank Christ!)

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