Far from the Madding Crowd (1968)

John Schlesinger’s shrewd and atmospheric adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel sees fiery Bathsheba Everdene toying with the feelings of three very different suitors.

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“The bleak social tragedy of Thomas Hardy’s fiction as transformed by the perfect cheekbones and icy chic of sixties Brit cinema. Lush and well-played, with cinematographer Nicolas Roeg on top form.”
Ian Nathan, empireonline.com

An atmosphere of foreboding hangs over this adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel like bad weather – of which there’s a good deal – as flighty young heroine Bathsheba (Julie Christie) alternately eludes, encourages and falls victim to the attentions of poor but decent shepherd Gabriel Oak (Alan Bates), rich but gloomy farmer William Boldwood (Peter Finch) and dashing but callous soldier Sergeant Troy (Terence Stamp).

All are dogged by disappointment and mishap, but director John Schlesinger’s approach is one of steady, sympathetic observation and careful period detail rather than high dramatics. Shot through with misty greys and blues, Nicolas Roeg’s evocative cinematography transforms Dorset into what Hardy described as the “part-real, part-dream country” of Wessex.

Hardy’s novel was wittily reworked for the present day in Posy Simmonds’s graphic novel Tamara Drewe (2007), subsequently adapted for the cinema by Stephen Frears (2010).

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