This last weekend I went to see Far from the Madding Crowd. Twice. It has been eight years since I first read Thomas Hardy’s novel in an introductory BritLit course (and the necessary reread will have to await my summer’s leisure) but from this distance I took to the new film with no hovering, critical muse — and it delighted me, all of it, both times through. Was it everything the written work is? Of course not. Could it have been twice as long? Probably, and even then not enough. There were lines anticipated but never realized (Gabriel: “I shall do one thing in this life — one thing certain — that is, love you, and long for you, and keep wanting you till I die”), though those that made the cut made their mark well (the infamous “It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs,” for example, is delivered without flaw). Every character lacked fully edifying depth, the majority of motivations are entirely absent, and there is little contest between Bathsheba’s three suitors from the audience’s side of the screen. For a book I remember in extremes, Vinterburg’s adaptation seems far too tame. And still: it delighted me, all of it, both times through.
Far from the Madding Crowd is most pressingly pretty. The cinematography was superb, the coloring absolutely exquisite, and the music sublime. Arriving home, I searched out the soundtrack and spent an idle hour perusing Dorset real estate with Opening Theme on repeat. But above all I left Vinterburg’s film wanting some collection of Carey Mulligan’s costumes all in one place: I wanted static confirmation of each detail, reference points to jumpstart memory and inform future fashion decisions (I often wear headscarfs. Now: more headscarfs). Designed by Janet Patterson — the woman behind Fanny Brawne’s mushroom collar in 2009’s Bright Star (of course) — the costumes bestride a delightful balance of old and new, and Bathsheba is rendered timelessly modern despite obvious Victorian silhouettes. Surely we would be talking about this, I assumed. The blues, the ginghams, the peplums, the pleats.That brief moment with the Greek key collar? The textures and depth of her mourning dress? The chatelaine bag? No? We’re not even talking about the chatelaine bag?! I wanted Bathsheba’s costumes all in one place, and the internet failed me.
So I went about collecting them myself. The blues, the ginghams, even, after really indefensible lengths, the Greek key collar (fifth image below; squint). Between the half-shouldered hunting trench and layered linen indigos I could hardly choose a favorite, but in the very least they are here, all in one place. Now can we talk about this?