Tuesday, 5 May 2015

REVIEW - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (THOMAS VINTERBERG)


I don't know whether this is an update or just an overzealous pruning, but I do know which I think it is. Thomas Vinterberg's Far from the Madding Crowd is a convincing example of why some stories simply don't need changing, some won't weather such an adaptation process. Like its characters to the landscape, or to their own feelings, Thomas Hardy's romantic classic is connected too intrinsically to itself, each element of its own character linked to the next, bound together by the gravity of Hardy's conceit. The story is laden with coincidences justifiable only within a context where they can explain themselves; David Nicholls' perfunctory adaptation omits the crucial, indeed fairly blatant point that the setting, the environment is as much a key narrative figure as the humans who inhabit it. They engage in relationships with nature, seemingly discussing with it, co-operating with it, influenced by it. To turn so complex a story into one, thoroughly modern and simplistic, about a woman's struggle to decide between three suitors (when the smartest solution is as plain to us as it is to the filmmakers) is a cruel and unnecessary bastardisation. Charlotte Bruus Christensen has designed images of formidable beauty, though she too misses the vitality of the landscape as a narrative tool, rather than as picturesque decoration. Though she's surely only following Thomas Vinterberg's lead, who's surely only following Nicholls'. Vinterberg can transform into the most insensitive, tone-deaf of directors when saddled with the wrong material - the restraint he displays here in such a regard is admirable, then, though it does make for one of his least interesting films. The only source of genuine interest is Carey Mulligan, whose resolve as a performer matches that of her famous role.