DIRECTED BY

John Schlesinger

 

STARRING

Julie Christie

Terence Stamp

Alan Bates

Peter Finch

Prunella Ransome

Fiona Walker

 

RATED

PG

 

RELEASED IN

1967

 

RUNNING TIME

2 Hrs., 50 Mins.

Far from the Madding Crowd  

wayward, but still in the process of getting to know themselves — their most obvious shared trademark is, arguably, their romantic bemusement. Over the course of the three Hunger Games books, Katniss, essentially, strings along two teenage love-interests vying for her affection: childhood friend Gale, and competitor Peeta. Far From the Madding Crowd, too, is largely pared down to a tizzy of romantic bewilderment: In Bathsheba’s case, three poles-apart men are desperate to hang on to her love. A resolution, in both of these marathon-like stories, will take years to arrive.

 

Far From the Madding Crowd, so melodrama-congested, has been adapted for the screen four times. The most recent page-to-screen transition was released in 2015; starred Carey Mulligan; and was breathtakingly realized, both stylistically and dramatically, by the Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg.

 

It is the 1967 reimagining, directed by the vaunted John Schlesinger, that is the most well-known, though, probably because it is the biggest and most star-driven. A scion of then-modern-day Homerics like Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965), it boasts a colossal, sweeping kind of filmmaking, meant to capitalize on colossal, sweeping literature. It was, promptly, decorated at the 1968 Oscars and BAFTAs, though hardly with the same level of generosity granted to the aforementioned epics.

 

In trying to keep in touch with the grandiosity of the source material, however, the 1967 dramatization of Far From the Madding Crowd, while stately, is only able to précis the emotional spectacle. Burdened with two overtures and an intermission, it is unnecessarily elongated — more focused on operatic story and pastoral visuals than on the distinctive characterizations necessary to make Bathsheba’s dilemma involving.

 

The movie spans years, and watches as the latter, here played with scrappy certitude by the always-effervescent Julie Christie, is romantically pinballed. The plot, foundationally, is concerned with her inheriting a farm and learning to tend to it successfully. But it is, of course, most focused on her romantic exploits. Early on, she turns down a martial offer by the farmer Gabriel (Alan Bates). Then, she courts, then weds, the dashing but thoughtless Troy (Terence Stamp). Her escapades, unwittingly, taunt the older, possessive William (Peter Finch), whom she never really outrightly turns down after he expresses interest. She is lucky that the man with whom she eventually decides to settle down is willing to commit himself after a long period of cold-shouldering.

 

The film unintentionally shirks immediacy; it is a nearly three-hour longueur. The characters, though intelligently fleshed out by the competent ensemble, are leadenly and thinly written. I much prefer the 2015 version; it retains the ‘67 adaptation’s sublime visuals but forsakes the bloat for something engaging and direct. C+

 

S

uzanne Collins, the author of The Hunger Games series (2008-’10), has said that the saga’s heroine, Katniss Everdeen, was named after Bathsheba Everdene, the headstrong protagonist from Far From the Madding Crowd, an 1874 novel by Thomas Hardy. Said Collins, when explaining how the characters compared to Entertainment Weekly: “The two are very different, but both struggle with knowing their hearts.”

 

While Katniss and Bathsheba seem temperamentally in sync to me —

Julie Christie in 1967's "Far From the Madding Crowd."

September 17, 2018