by Matt Levine
The greatest moment in Thomas Vinterberg’s Oscar-nominated The Hunt (2012) lies in a single close-up: the precocious six-year-old who accuses the main character of molesting her—falsely—stares at two men fighting, aware of the chaos she’s caused, her feelings unknowable. It’s an incredibly mysterious depiction of young childhood, which is so often seen as frank and innocent in the movies.
Similarly, in Vinterberg’s English-language follow-up Far from the Madding Crowd, an oblique close-up provides the film’s strongest moment: thanked by a romantic rival for not marrying the much-loved heroine, a seemingly righteous shepherd named Gabriel (Matthias Schoenaerts) glares at him, a glint of violence apparent in his usually tranquil eyes. Viewed in profile, this nervy image hints at the heated passions that course beneath the surface of this typically well-behaved melodrama. While Vinterberg’s pulsing intensity and visual precision are more fully on display in The Hunt or Celebration (1998), Far from the Madding Crowd provides a solid, occasionally stirring adaptation of a literary classic (in this case, Thomas Hardy’s 1874 novel).
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Producers: Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich
Writers: David Nicholls, Thomas Hardy (novel)
Cinematographer: Charlotte Bruus Christensen
Editor: Claire Simpson
Music: Craig Armstrong
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple, Bradley Hall, Jessica Barden
US Theatrical Release: May 1, 2015
US Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures