Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Far From the Madding Crowd

This week, to the new release at my local Cineworld.  How could anything equal that 70s version with Julie Christie dressed in Laura Ashley, Terence Stamp and his blue eyes, Peter Finch looking suitably deranged as Boldwood, and Alan Bates as the dependable Farmer Oak?  I saw Terence Stamp recently in one of those films made for the older generation - did they have those in the 70s? - and how time has wrought its revenges.

However - this version has Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba, and she has had good reviews.  But she looks at once too young and too old for the part, in the sense that she has that sort of gamine quality which Hardy would not have regarded as beauty.  She speaks throughout in an educated modern accent without a trace of Dorset.  It is said that the film had dialect coaches but they did not seem to have influenced Bathsheba.

Michael Sheen is very good as Boldwood, although every now and then there is more than a hint of Tony Blair about him - he played Blair in "The Queen".  Tom Sturridge looks like a cad - if a black moustache and incipient stubble will do this for a man.  What he does not look like is irresistible, and the whole Fanny Robin story is underplayed, so that the tragedy of it is curiously absent.

Much more successful is Matthias Schoenaerts as Oak.  Hardy's descriptions of Farmer Oak would not make him a modern romantic lead but Schoenaerts has a huge physical presence and the ability to look good in layers of knitwear.  Irresistible. 

So to the important bit - the costumes.  It was wonderful to see Bathsheba wearing dresses with Dorset buttons, their wheel patterns clearly visible.  Would she ever have worn breeches and a leather jacket as in the opening scene?  Surely not. But the striped silk and fancy hats worn during her infatuation with Troy were very telling.

The whole thing was filmed on location in Dorset  and Somerset.  What this must have cost, goodness only knows, but there are some wonderfully lush long shots of verdant countryside.  Less convincing were the harvesting scenes.  Perhaps it is standard now to use CGI in battle scenes to fill up the background, as they seem to have done with the wheat harvest here. Obviously, many manual labourers were used where now one huge combine would do it all.  But surely not that many.  In the scene about a hundred reapers seem to be spread across the whole, extremely messy field, at the front of which Oak is manfully scything away.   I don't know exactly how it was done historically, but I'm sure that it wasn't like that.  Oak needs to turn around and organise his workforce.

So - yes, do go and see it if you get the chance. At the very least it has taken me back to reread the book.

You may be thinking that this is a case of deja vu.  In fact, this is a new little cardigan, differing from the last one in being knitted from the bottom up.  The first one, from the Baby Sophisticate pattern, uses a top-down raglan construction, which means knitting the sleeves on dpns.  Supposing one reversed it and knitted the sleeves flat before joining them in - how would this work?  Well, it turned out just fine, except that I tried making it a little bigger at the same time and it is now too big for the new-born range.  It will have to go to the other branch of the charity.  No matter.

And yet another Gidday Baby, this one using a pattern from my new purchase; "Charted Celtic Patterns" by Co Spinhoven, of which more later.


1 comment:

Mary Lou said...

Sometimes when I lie down to take a nap, i remember the line about Gabriel Oak calling sleep to him. (Or something like that.) I'll go for the Dorset buttons!