Far From The Madding Crowd | 2015
48 years after the classic John Schlesinger adaptation, Thomas Vinterberg brings Thomas Hardy’s novel to the screen – this time more swooning romance than gloom-laden tragedy. The story is set, of course, in Hardy’s ‘Wessex’, a slightly fictionalised Dorset, the West Country of southwest England.
Carey Mulligan is Bathsheba Everdene, a strong-willed, level-headed woman (without the dangerous vanity of the Julie Christie incarnation), while Matthias Schoenaerts makes Gabriel Oak such a steely hunk that most straight women in the audience will be mystified as to why Bathsheba, independent or not, doesn’t jump at his first proposal of marriage.
As Oak’s fortunes wane with the loss of his flock of sheep, Bathsheba’s blossom as she unexpectedly inherits property.
The cliffs over which Oak’s sheep are driven by the out-of-control young sheepdog, are at Eype, near Bridport.
The farmhouse she inherits is Mapperton House, home of the Earl and Duchess of Sandwich in Beaminster, five miles northeast of Bridport, Dorset. The house was seen as the home of the Weston’s in Douglas McGrath’s 1996 film of Jane Austen’s Emma, with Gwyneth Paltrow.
The market town square, where Fanny Robbin (Juno Temple) proudly points out her beau, the dashing Sergeant Troy (Tom Sturridge), and Gabriel Oak looks for work, is Half Moon Street in Sherborne, alongside Sherborne Abbey, also in the real Dorset.
Bathsheba arrives here, too, to sell her grain at the Corn Exchange. The building’s interior, where she’s first seen by wealthy landowner William Boldwood (Michael Sheen) is the wood-panelled Great Hall of Forde Abbey, near Chard, in Somerset about seven miles west of Beaminster.
Boldwood’s severe-looking mansion, with its beautiful terrace overlooking the river, is Claydon, Middle Claydon, about 13 miles from Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. The house, home of the Verney family, is the remnant of a much larger property, most of which was demolished when the owners fell on difficult times. Although the exterior is austere, the interiors are awash with spectacularly elaborate rococo wood carving, by Luke Lightfoot.
Lightfoot seems to have been something of a roguish chancer, who craftily siphoned off rather more money than he was entitled to. Nevertheless, his handiwork remains a marvel, and the house’s Chinese Room has to be seen to be believed.
Claydon was regularly visited by nurse Florence Nightingale, who had her own bedroom here. The house contains a display of memorabilia, including a lock of her hair. Coincidentally, it’s also featured in the film of Emma.