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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

A Sweet Adaptation

Far from the Madding Crowd (2015) on IMDb

Plot Overview

“Far from the Madding Crowd” (2015) is set in Victorian England. At the film's start, the orphaned but educated Bath­sheba Ever­dene (Carey Mulligan) who is living with her aunt in rural Dorset sets out to go riding. We see a bridle cinched down tight. Once she's in the forest, she switches from side­saddle to riding astride like a man, but when the horse goes under some branches, she lies supine instead of bending forward as would a man. A twig catches a token piece of cloth to be retrieved by sheep farmer Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts) who appears to be smitten by her and will return her scarf some­time later.

It would be easy to mistake this story as proto-feminist when she replies to Gabriel's offer, “I don't want a husband. I'd hate to be some­body's property,” but the impression I get is that she of marriage­able age is just feeling her oats, valuing her current independence, and has simply lacked parents to arrange a marriage or even instruct her. In the way that God looks after orphans, her life will progress along the lines of the Lord working in mysterious ways while being Him­self all the while in the saddle. If it's not stretching a punning combination too far, one could even think of the  evergreen oak  whose leaves live for two years, so the tree is always more or less green. Even when it seem the season of court­ship is over for the girl, she's still more or less avail­able if farmer Oak has the patience to wait.


“Far” illustrates farming as delineated by Solomon in, (Prov. 27:23-24) “Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation?” Farmer Oak would be a good match as a capable farmer (“You're a man of great talent”), but wealthy (“riches are not for ever”) neighboring farm holder William Bold­wood (Michael Sheen) has also made an appealing offer, as well as a passing soldier of uncertain life span (“doth the crown endure to every generation?”) Sergeant Francis Troy (Tom Sturridge) who catches her eye. Her life as presented in this movie involves farming, be it harvesting hay (Prov. 27:25), sheep for profit (Prov. 27:26), or milking a cow (Prov. 27:27). The arc of the story seems to be whether she'll select a husband who appeals to her desire, satisfies the audience expectation, and/or would have been approved by her (now deceased) parents.

From the get-go she narrates that she doesn't know the meaning of her name as her parents are not around to ask. In the Bible her name­sake Bathsheba (2Sam. 11:3) was the wife of a soldier who was then murdered by a wealthy man who wanted her, and she remarried to an erst­while shepherd boy. There was also an unwanted child involved. I'm not saying this is her story too, but it's not neces­sarily far off either.

Reading the Bible for an answer involves a parallax as its authors aren't around to explain their meaning either, should some­thing be lost in trans­lation. A cute illustration is given with farmer Oak's dog “Young Georgie” who is not cut of the same material as his “Old Georgie” despite the trans­fer of name. Old Georgie was a sheep dog par excellence. Young Georgie tending sheep is like the fox guarding the hen house.

A simple illustration is given in a song that mentions the grass being  “green and gay  … in the month of May.” In 1870 the word gay could—and still does—mean brightly colored. It could—and still does—mean licentious as in the bawdy song Sergeant Troy led the men in singing, which was oh, so gay. And it can mean brightly happy, as was Bathsheba giddily beginning her marriage. It wouldn't mean homo­sexual until another hundred years, although they still had gay marriages, i.e. happy ones, back then (Eccl. 9:9). Those gay marriages were honor­able like old Georgie. Today as the term is commonly used in the news­paper it means some­thing else, like young Georgie, bad doggie. If a word can change so much in a hundred years, think how much they may have changed in 500 since we got our King James Version (KJV) Bible.

Words were added (Rev. 22:18) as when William Boldwood read an intent into his Valentine card that wasn't there. Words were subtracted (Rev. 22:19) as in a coverup (“with child.”) Communi­cations became muddled (“I thought you said ‘All Souls’, not ‘All Saints’.”) And sex differences brought further confusion (Sergeant Troy: “You've never seen you through a man's eyes. It's like not being able to think.” “It is difficult”, she says, “for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs.”) If you are trying to sort out Bible trans­lations, you can get a micro­cosm of their problems by watching this movie.

Of note is Bathsheba's youthful companion Liddy (Jessica Barden) who is keenly aware of all the happenings around her and is able to advise her mistress. This is in contrast to the foolish rich old goat William Bold­wood who is accustomed to always getting his way. We could pretty well describe the contrast of the two with, (Eccl. 4:13-14) “Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished. For out of prison he cometh to reign; whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor.” They didn't hang old William because his was a crime of passion, but crime is crime none­the­less. And the young woman Fanny Robbin (Juno Temple) became poor enough after being in the right pew but the wrong church.

In a metaphor that is exactly how Bible translations shake out. Musty ole manuscripts have been discovered in what­ever holes they've resided until released (“out of prison”), but that means they weren't generally preserved like the textus receptus (received text) per the promise of, (Matt. 24:35) “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” Liddy is young like the native words in the KJV, which words have become usage-poor, but still we're better off with that wise Bible than recent ones that are set beyond criticism.

The mechanism we're given to keep our message on track is, (1Cor. 14:29-33) “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.” We substitute the Bible(s) that we use today for the prophets who brought the word of God back when there was no completed canon, and if there is a plurality of (modern) versions, then usually it's just one or two, so we compare it (them) with the KJV, and in concert we come up with an accurate message in our group studies. That's better than just having a leader declare the version he uses is beyond reproach. This movie has three suitors judging each other, and if the result works out to be mysteriously right, then perhaps having Bible versions judge each other will work out right, too.

Production Values

Far From the Madding Crowd” (2015) was directed by Thomas Vinterberg. Its screen­play was written by David Nicholls based on Thomas Hardy's classic novel Far From the Madding Crowd, 1874. The film neces­sarily cuts a lot of material from the book and changes some scenes, but it's a faithful adaption and stays true to the characters and story. It stars Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, and Juno Temple. Mulligan excels in a role of her own woman with some very real chemistry between her character and her suitors. A great performance! The sup­porting cast is also excellent.

MPAA rated it PG–13 for some sexuality and violence. The very sensitive might also object to what happens to some of the animals. Cinema­tog­rapher Charlotte Bruus Christensen creates a rich aesthetic that combines both vibrant colors and intimate natural light. He captures the change­able rural surroundings with breath­taking style, from lens flares on a bright sunny day and verdant, rolling hills to rosy sunsets and morning haze. Of note is the sound­track by Craig Arm­strong. For a period piece, the pacing is swift, yet it doesn't feel rushed.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This was a delightful movie. It presented a strong woman who didn't seem hard like some feminist models. Her story was inter­esting and kept us engaged. The twists seemed geared towards the vicissitudes of life, and the scenery exuded natural beauty. It moved right along while managing to capture the sense of the time. The acting was great. I highly recommend it.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability for Children: Suitable for children 13+ years. Special effects: Well done special effects. Video Occasion: Fit For a Friday Evening. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall product rating: Five stars out of five.