The screen adaptation in 2015 of Thomas Hardy’s “Far From the Madding Crowd” was filmed in England with breathtaking scenery of the quiet English countryside, even as it must have appeared in 1870, the time period of the story. Thomas Hardy wrote this novel in 1874.
Thomas Hardy - Wikimedia
The film opens with Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan), a young adult who was orphaned as a very young girl, working on her aunt’s farm. A new neighbor Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts) has purchased the farm next door and introduced himself to Bathsheba. The next day, he came to visit, and brought with him a baby lamb as a gift to Bathsheba. When her aunt was out of earshot, Gabriel whispered to Bathsheba that he had another reason for coming to visit. “Would you like to marry me?” he asked. “I’ve never asked anyone before. I have 100 acres, 200 sheep, flowers and birds. I’d always be there for you.” Of course, Bathsheba declined his offer, saying that he could find someone better; she had little to offer.
Bad News and Good News
One evening, Gabriel’s new sheepdog George chased his entire flock off of a cliff to their death in the ocean. He was forced to sell his property to pay his debts, leaving him impoverished. Bathsheba, on the other hand, received a notice that her uncle had passed away, leaving his estate to her, including his farm with several acres. She left to claim her new home and to supervise the workers on the farm.
In the meantime, Gabriel began looking for work and came upon some soldiers recruiting men to join their service. He declined, but learned from the girlfriend of one of the soldiers that a nearby farm was looking for workers. The girl was Fanny Robbins, who was planning to marry Sgt. Troy (Tom Sturridge). When Gabriel walked up to the farmhouse, he noticed that the barn was on fire, and through his efforts, the barn was saved along with the farmhouse nearby. He learned the next day that the owner had passed away and the farm now belonged to the man’s niece, who was Bathsheba. She was so grateful to Gabriel. If the fire had spread any further, she would have lost everything. Knowing his sad situation, she offered him a job as a sheep herder.
Carey Mulligan - Wikimedia
Bathsheba and her maid, Liddy, went into town to with samples to sell her high-quality grain. She was cunning enough to hold out for the best price. She noticed Mr. Boldwood (Michael Sheen) in the marketplace, the owner of a lavish farm nearby. He was introduced to her at church the next day as Farmer Everdene’s niece, and he told her “We are neighbors.”
Fanny Robbins showed up at the church, dressed in a fine gown, looking for Sgt. Troy who had set the date for their wedding. After a long wait, she left, thinking that he had changed his mind. Meanwhile, Sgt. Troy was waiting in another church and was distraught that Fanny had apparently jilted him.
Bathsheba and Liddy were making valentines, and Liddy suggested that they send one to the handsome Mr. Boldwood. When he stopped by Bathsheba’s farm the next day, he was impressed that Bathsheba had gotten into the water with the shepherds to clean the sheep. He said to her: “I want you for my wife. You will have dresses, a piano. I will protect you.” Bathsheba answered: I respect you very much, but I do not feel that which would justify me in accepting your offer. I should never have sent the valentine. It was impetuous of me, it was not a joke. I have my own farm. I have no need of a husband.”
Gabriel, who had overheard the conversation, told Bathsheba “Your actions were unworthy.” Mr. Boldwood was a decent, respected man. Bathsheba was so incensed at Gabriel that she told him to leave the farm at the end of the week. She never wanted to see his face again. Gabriel answered: “I will go at once.” Nevertheless, Bathsheba hat to beg him to return when most of her sheep fell ill from eating some poisonous plants. He agreed reluctantly and saved many of the sheep from a horrible death. He gave in to her plea to stay with the farm.
Sgt. Troy Demonstrates his Sword Skills
The next day, Bathsheba was surprised to see Sgt. Troy walking around on her property. He apologized and said he was lost. He then started to flatter her, saying that he had never seen a face as beautiful as hers. She insisted that he should leave the premises. Troy suggested that they meet in the nearby woods the next morning at eight o’clock and he would show her his skill with the sword. Bathsheba was there waiting for him and he proceeded to demonstrate his skill by swinging the sword dangerously around her body. He ended his performance by kissing her, the first kiss that she had ever received.
Matthias Schoenaerts - Wikimedia
Gabriel warned her that Troy was a dishonorable man and to have nothing to do with him. She ignored Gabriel’s words since she was infatuated with Troy and the duo eloped without announcing their intentions. When they returned, they celebrated their new life with the farm workers. Gabriel warned them that a storm was coming and the crops had to be covered or they would be lost. Troy, having had too much to drink, ignored the warning. Gabriel worked feverishly to fasten tarps over the plants. Bathsheba went outside to help him. She admitted to Gabriel that she had been a fool to fall for Troy’s smooth talk.
Troy Encounters Fanny
The Fair had come to town and Bathsheba and Troy joined the festivities. Troy spotted Fanny, and furtively spoke to her while Bathsheba was occupied. She told him that she had gone to the wrong church. She also told him “I am carrying your child.” Troy said that he had made a terrible mistake, and asked her to meet him the next morning at ten o’clock at the bridge. When Troy asked Bathsheba that evening if she would give him 20 pounds, she refused since she realized since their marriage that he was a gambler. He did not show up the next morning for his meeting with Fanny.
It soon came to light that Fanny and died in childbirth along with the baby. She had been a servant to Bathsheba’s uncle at the farmhouse, so her coffin arrived there because it was her last known address. Bethsheba opened the coffin and saw that it contained Fanny’s body as well as the body of a baby. To Bathsheba’s surprise, Troy kissed Fanny’s lips. He said “This woman was more to me than ever you were, or are, or can be. You are nothing to me now.”
Troy’s uniform was found on the beach, and there was no trace of him anywhere. It was presumed that he had drowned, and the authorities notified Bathsheba of the tragedy.
Bathsheba was saddled with Troy’s debts, which were so heavy that she feared she would lose the farm. Mr. Boldwood not only offered to buy the farm, he proposed once more to Bathsheba, who said she would think it offer.
Michael Sheen - Wikimedia
No Spoiler Here
This review will not spoil the ending for you. Too many details need wrapping up. It is enough to say that the viewer will be surprised exceedingly at the multiple turn of events. Enjoy!
The book’s title was taken by Thomas Hardy from a line in Thomas Gray's poem "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" which states "Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife, their sober wishes never learned to stray.”
Thomas Hardy wrote 14 novels in his lifetime, many of which are part of the English curriculum in American schools. Familiar titles, along with “Far From the Madding Crowd,” are “The Return of the Native,” “Tess of the d’Urbervilles,” “Jude the Obscure,” and “The Mayor of Casterbridge.”