‘Far From the Madding Crowd': How Period Romance Conventions Killed a Potentially Great Literary Adaptation
Far From the Madding Crowd, in theaters Friday, appears to have plenty going for it. It’s only the third film adaptation of the classic Thomas Hardy novel — and the first since John Schlesinger’s in 1967, though there was also a TV movie in 1998 — and its cast includes such promising names as Carey Mulligan and Michael Sheen. And it’s directed by Thomas Vinterberg, a Danish filmmaker best known for two movies that examine child sexual abuse from very different, equally unflinching perspectives: 1998’s The Celebration, which kicked off the Dogme 95 movement, and 2013’s The Hunt, which was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. He is an excellent director of actors, capable of efficiently capturing the psychological complexity of characters and their relationships — which should make him the perfect interpreter for Hardy, whose detailed internal portraiture is the centerpiece of his work. So why is Vinterberg’s Far From the Madding crowd frustratingly mediocre?