It’s a name to fall in love with. Bathsheba Everdene. Bathsheba Everdene. Say it out loud a few times. Roll it around the tongue a couple more. Magical.
And fall in love, I did, with that feisty miss – one who was before her time. Looking back, I initially presumed I would have given her my heart from the print version, rather than the one projected up there on the big screen. There was, of course, no VHS or DVD back then as the sixties imploded and turned the corner into the next decade. After all, I had spent my uni years working through the remaining Hardy novels after first encountering him via the tragic Tess in Year 12. She also caused, in me, much inner longing – for what, I wasn’t quite sure.
But, having completed my due diligence, the ether told me the film was released in 1967 and therefore the Bathsheba I was first so enamoured of must have been the Julie Christie version. It’s so long ago now that I viewed this film version and read the novel of ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’. I remember the sheep falling off the cliff and the stolid farm hand, played back then by Alan Bates (who else?), treating Miss Everdene’s flock for the bloat. And I could bring back how dashing Terence Stamp looked in his uniform playing the cad, wooing our heroine for a fast shilling to get him out of debt. He seduced her in no time flat despite the worthy Gabriel Oak, the farm hand, having stuck by her through thick and thin – completely besotted. After she pranked unfortunate rich neighbour on Valentines Day, William Boldwood (Peter Finch) was also pursuing her hand and being driven almost insensible by her constant refusals.
So, with a fond memory of a bygone infatuation, I traipsed off to see the 2015 version of the great work a few weeks ago, optimistically expecting the new Bathsheba, Carey Mulligan, to entrance me as much as her predecessors.
I was not let down. I enjoyed every moment of it – and the story came back to me almost in its entirety, even if I still could not recall how it was all going to pan out. The resurrection of Frank Troy, the slimy soldier-cove was still a great surprise. This time around Tom Sturridge played the execrable, but charismatic, gold-digger to the hilt of oiliness, with the marvellous Matthias Schoenaerts compelling as the faithful Oak. ‘Masters of Sex’ leading hand Michael Sheen ably filled Finch’s shoes as the lovelorn elder suitor. And, as for Carey, if she didn’t win you over as Daisy in ‘The Great Gatsby’, she’s sure to in this. As Bathsheba she takes on a man’s job with steely determination and is the independent woman personified, that is until she’s completely undone by the odious Frank Troy. She would not ride side-saddle, she would not be bidded down for her grain seeds just because she was a woman and she proclaimed she would not give herself in wedlock for gain She’d do it only for love. Ha!
Starring beautifully, as well, was the lush Dorset countryside, with director Thomas Vinterberg ably recreating the descriptions of landscape that Hardy mastered for the printed page. And if you like the director’s take on this classic, look out for a DVD copy of his chilling tale of what can go wrong in the classroom with his astounding ‘The Hunt’. Mads Mikkelsen steals the show in that harrowing journey, but in it there’s no one to match the sublime Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene, Bathsheba Everdene, Bathsheba Everdene……
Official trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCm1XNVD_0c