Screen writer Frederic Raphael gave a brief and witty introduction to John Schlesinger’s 1967 adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd at the Barbican Cinema last night (Monday 16 March).
Schlesinger’s film with actors Julie Christie, Terence Stamp, Peter Finch and Alan Bates will be difficult to improve upon.
Bathsheba Everdene (Christie) unexpectedly inherits a large farm in mid-nineteenth century rural Dorset. She captivates the hearts and minds of three very different men: an honest and hardworking sheep farmer (Bates), a wealthy landowner (Finch), and a reckless soldier (Stamp).
Raphael explained how as a screen writer he took Hardy’s lengthy novel and condensed it into a film that is itself lengthy at nearly three hours long. The skill, he says, is in editing enough out, but leaving the audience with sufficient information and allow them to imagine and in turn carry the story along.
For me, having seen the film many times and read the book once, the script very much captures the spirit of Hardy’s most well-known of novels, and in places the dialogue in the film is an improvement.
The story unfolds around the life of farms and market towns in the Dorset and Wiltshire landscape with its changing seasons, harsh weather, and particularly rain, filmed beautifully by Nicolas Roeg who turns Hardy’s literary landscape into a series of constable paintings.
Far from the Madding Crowd, directed by John Schlesinger (1967) continues at Barbican Cinema until 25 March 2015. Far from the Madding Crowd, directed by Thomas Vinterberg and starring Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, and Juno Temple is released 1 May 2015.