Thursday, 7 May 2015
Far From the Madding Crowd - 1967 vs 2015
I had planned two other films for this post, The Loft (2014) vs Loft (2008) but being unable to get hold of a copy of the latter resulted in me picking Far From the Madding Crowd. Along with the fact the 1967 version was about to have its re-release and the 2015 version was about to be released in cinemas and I had waited quite a while for the latter, even going to the premiere, but that's another story.
For this post, I've included (a basic) meme as I thought I had posted a few of these themed posts, it was time they had a heading of some sort.
I have read and watched the lead up to release of Thomas Vinterberg's FFTMC and it was a few months ago that I became aware that there had been a previous adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel in 1967, directed by John Schlesinger. I had seen a glimpse of the film on the internet and read a brief something in a film magazine and on the BFI website. From there my little obsession grew. Not only are both films adaptations of Hardy's novel but, as Vintererg mentioned in a video about his FFTMC, both films concentrate on one of the male leads more than others. The common thread in both the adaptations is that Bathsheba, the heroine is front and centre. There are may similarities and are notable differences and I'll go through them here. To be fair, the 2015 film isn't exactly a remake but another different adaptation but they are still 'vs' so I'll continue.
Bathsheba Everdeen inherits her Uncle's farm in Dorset. She decides to manage the farm herself which was unusual during Victorian times. She attracts three very different men; Gabrial Oak, a loyal sheep farmer who was a former neighbour now in her employ, Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant and William Boldwood, a middle aged, closed off ,wealthy, arrogant neighbour who becomes obsessed with her. She has to navigate through running the farm as well as deciding her place in a man's world.
On the surface there are several similarities between the films. Having not yet read the book, I can only judge on what I've seen. The characters are all the same, appearances and casting match each other. Both films were filmed in Dorset and follow the same story that I presume is similar to the novel.
The turning point for each film was made the writer/directors where they each decided to concentrate on one of the men. For Schlesinger, he chose Troy as his leading man. The Sergent, in love with poor Fanny Robin but after he thinks he's been jilted, goes after Bathsheba to what seems like a rebound, a distraction, marries her and makes their lives miserable. Vinterberg chose Gabrial Oak, which to me, makes more sense as he is the strong, loyal, responsible farmer who doesn't give up on life after tragedy strikes quite early on in the story. He is with Bathsheba from the start and stays by her side, doesn't put up with her games and always gets the job done.
Bathsheba Everdeen. Hardy's heroine is meant to be a character that challenges convention, she is in a position of power where men usually stand. She is, at the start, independent, wild and willing to do the hard work and help out on her Aunt's farm then her own. She is fearless but can be naive and mean spirited and thoughtless. Julie Christie portrayed Bathsheba in the 1967 film. I thought she was perfect (for the time) as the character. Beautiful and bold but I'm not sure if it was the script but she came across as off handed and rude. She also looses her independent firery edge when Troy appears. She acts like a silly melodramatic girl and continues to behave this way for the rest of the film, which was rather disappointing. She acts over the top where more could have been said in a quieter manner.
Carey Muligan portrays Bathsheba in Vinterberg's version and gives the character more emotions. Where she differs from Christie's version is her interaction with the male leads. She isn't over the top but shows her strong willed and short temper through some compassion. Her feelings are expressed differently and noticeably, she does far more farm work, showing that she is not afraid to get her hands dirty. It is also clear that she has growing feelings towards the right man and visibly regrets her decisions she has made. All around, I think Carey made Bathsheba an all round character and not just a description from a book on screen.
As for the men, Boldwood, Troy, Oak are more difficult to break down. Both Boldwoods are portrayed by well established and respected actors, Peter Finch and Micheal Sheen. Both are arrogant at first and are broken down by Bathsheba and become obviously obsessed. But Sheen actually made his version sorrowful. Boldwood arrives at the Everdeen farm after a storm and breaks down in a dignified manner during a conversation with Oak, expressing how he feels a 'terrible grief' at the news Bathsheba has married Troy. Where as Finch comes across as creepy and unfeeling.
Sergeant Troy, played by Terrance Stamp in the 1967 version is horrible throughout the film, he is even unfeeling towards Fanny Robin, except when she has died, the woman he is in love with. His drawn out seduction through sword play display was over blown and is actually rather dull. But Stamp gives Troy the reckless, selfish characteristics well and by the end you don't feel anything but relief. Tom Sturridge, who portrays Troy in 2015, had the hardest job, creating a different character and was unfortunately given less time to show the development. When he thinks he's been jilted he cries silently, there is a romantic in him, which I think is why he married Bathsheba. He quickly becomes a gambling, drunk, careless retch and we're not sorry when he supposedly disappears. Finally Gabrial Oak, played by Alan Bates in 1967 is very similar to Matthias Schoenaerts' version in 2015. Bates is perfect in this role but isn't really given enough opportunities in the film, as he is not the director's focus. Schoenaerts uses his time well, he creates a caring determined man who is loyal until the end to Bathsheba and their chemistry, between the actors is obvious, making it believable these two are friends who slowly become more. The relationship is steadily brought together a scene at a time.
There are a few missing pieces from 2015 version that were in the 1967 film. For me, the scene where Boldwood tries to bribe Troy not to marry Bathsheba is important, especially for the ultimate end. Without it, the end is sudden and violent rather what they call it, crime of passion. I feel that there also needed to be more interactions between Oak and Troy but both films lack this.
Lastly, where there are some beautiful scenes in Schlesinger's film, you cannot go wrong with the amazing Dorest countryside, most of the film as that '60's sheen' to it. But Vinterberg's film is a feast for your eyes. Every frame looks and feels like a masterpiece. The framing of characters during dramatic and quiet moments is just superb. This, I think is where Vinterberg's 2015 film has the edge and for me, the cinematography wins makes the period drama, especially when set in a spectacular setting. My favourite moment is right near the end when the sun comes between Oak and Bathsheba, its a picture perfect shot.
If you've seen both, let me know what your thoughts are.