Far From the Madding Crowd

“It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in a language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs,” declares Bathsheba Everdene, the young heroine of Thomas Hardy’s novel Far From the Madding Crowd. For a Victorian writer, Hardy has always struck me as unusually modern—especially in his simple, exacting, observational prose—but Bathsheba’s statement is positively postmodern in its understanding of how words create their own value system. The gulf between men’s and women’s experience couldn’t be more obvious in Thomas Vinterberg’s solid, well-acted screen adaptation of the novel, the first in nearly half a century. British screenwriter David Nicholls (One Day), catering to the art-house market for prefeminist Victorian romance, makes a game attempt to Austen-ize Far From the Madding Crowd by emphasizing its story of an independent woman who challenges the sexism of her times. In the end, though, he and Vinterberg can’t obscure the strong patriarchal feeling Hardy brought to the book: in his view it was the tale of a woman being gently brought to heel. Continue reading >>