Far From The Madding Crowd (and five of the best Thomas Hardy adaptations for the screen)
Along with the likes of Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll and the Bronte sisters, author Thomas Hardy must rank amongst the most famous novelists from the Victorian era. Although he may have considered himself a poet more than a writer of fiction, many of his novels such as The Mayor of Casterbridge and Tess of the d'Urbervilles are considered literary classics and many of his works have been adapted for film and TV over the years.
The latest of these is an adaptation of the first of Hardy's novels to be published to be published under his own name and perhaps his most famous work, Far From the Madding Crowd. Already the subject of two screen adaptations – firstly in 1967 for the big screen by director John Schlesinger, then again in 1998 for Nicholas Renton's made-for-TV movie – the new version, directed by Danish director Thomas Vinterberg, is out in stores now and stars Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts in the roles of the tale's star-crossed lovers, Bathsheba Everdene and Gabriel Oak.
Vinterberg has been steadily carving out an impressive career over the last few years with tense dramas like Submarino, The Celebration and The Hunt, the latter of these earning him an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, but this is his first attempt at a period drama and an accomplished one at that. As one of the co-founders of the Dogme 95 movement along with fellow Danes Lars von Trier and Kristian Levring, you could be forgiven for wondering what a classic period drama would look like in the hands of a director like Vinterberg, but fans of the story will be relieved to hear there's nothing to radical going on here.
What Vinterberg does bring to this new adaptation is his gift for gritty realism and tension-filled, human scale drama, offering a contemporary slant on a classic tale while resisting the temptation to dumb down or make a film that tries too hard to relate to younger audiences. The casting is right on the money too, with Mulligan and Schoenerts making for a perfect on-screen pairing and a well chosen supporting cast that includes Michael Sheen, Juno Temple, Tom Sturridge and Victor McGuire.
Even if the thought of a another period drama doesn't exactly set your pulse racing, Vinterberg has done an impressive job here and Far From the Madding Crowd is well worth checking out. If, on the other hand, you're a fan of all things frilly and Victorian, this will be right up your street.
You can find the trailer below and you can also find Far From the Madding Crowd on DVD and Blu-ray in our online store (follow the link on the right-hand side of this page). Below we've picked five other films and TV shows adapted from the novels of Thomas Hardy...
Roman Polanski's 1979 adaptation of Tess of the d'Urbervilles is still one of the best attempts at translating Hardy's work and features an excellent performance from a young Nastassia Kinski as the titular peasant sent who finds herself the object of desire for two men, one of whom her mother wishes her to ingratiate herself with as he is from a noble family. But not all is as it seems with the d'Urbervilles and she soon finds she is not the only one with designs on a better life for themselves.
David Thacker's 2003 TV movie stars Ciarán Hinds in the role of Michael Henchard, a rum-loving grain merchant who sells his wife and baby daughter to a sailor for five guineas following a drunken quarrel and spends the next 21 years living out a vow of sobriety, during which time he ascends to the role of the town's mayor. Rich, successful and embarking on a new romantic relationship with a young woman named Lucetta, Henchard never reveals to the townspeople what really happened to his wife, preferring instead to allow them to presume she is dead. But then, just as the 21 years of his vow are about to expire, his wife and daughter return to Casterbridge and Henchard's life begins to unravel.
Although Far from the Madding Crowd is often wrongly considered Hardy's first published novel, Under the Greenwood Tree was actually published anonymously two years earlier. Nick Laughland's 2005 TV adaptation features a talented cast that includes Keely Hawes, James Murray and Steve Pemberton. It's a relatively light-hearted romance story by Hardy's standards, but period drama fans will love it.
Hugh David's TV adaptation of Jude The Obscure was first broadcast in 1971 and stars Robert Powell as the story's protagonist. Jude is born into poverty but is determined to improve his standing in life. However, his dreams are dashed one by one and Jude's life soon descends into chaos. Packed with Hardy's sardonic wit, the series does look a little dated, but Powell is great in this.
Our final pick is based on a series of Hardy's short stories and this run of six episodes were each adapted by different writers and directors, including Mike Newell, David Mercer and the late, great Dennis Potter. The cast is just as impressive, with John Hurt, Billie Whitelaw, Ben Kingsley and Nick Brimble all featuring. Each one is quite different, but they all have their own unique charms and the Potter-directed episode starring John Hurt, titled 'A Tragedy of Two Ambitions', is a particular highlight.