Far from the Madding Crowd
4 Februari 2021
It is the movie from Vinterberg I want to discuss today. Or better: the story the movie tells. In which amount it corresponds to the novel written by Thomas Hardy I couldn’t tell, for to my shame, I was unable to read it. I tried many times, but to no avail. Being a fervent addict to 19th century English prose and having devoured all of Jane Austen, the Brontës and the like, I expected to evenly do so with this one. Especially in view of the reputation of Hardy as a feminist avant la lettre.
Now I have watched the latest movie made from it, I begin to suspect why.
It’s a bore of a story. As is his later Tess of the d’Ubervilles, and yet again his Jude the Obscure.
Especially if you’re a woman, and not young enough to read past it.
It begins quite well. The protagonist, a young woman, is depicted as fierce and independent, and accordingly she does manage her life, and a little farm, with as good as no help.
So far: not bad, for a 19th century man.
Then, gradually, Hardy’s motives crumble. On one hand, she appears far less clever than she thought she was, as she makes stupid choice after stupid choice.
On the other, the old Taming of the Shrew, of course a male would have to teach her reason. En passant occasionally save her from various disaster and eventually marry her. Sic.
I cringed more and more painfully as the story went on and the image of the great male unfolded itself, righteous and morally just. She, on the other hand, appears a foolish trollop.
But I had to check this antipathy, because all things considered (and surely the thing called 19th century most considered, and the state of women’s lib at the time), the story is indeed a pamphlet for emancipation, because after all, the heroin does end managing a huge farm with dozens of employees on her own, against severe obstacles and misfortunes (not all of her doing).
That is definitely emancipatory for women, especially those from the 19th century.
PS: for a nice review, see The Guardian.