Movie Review: Far from the Madding Crowd

Image via The Telegraph

Rating: 4 out of 5

So in the chaos of moving and starting a new job, I haven’t done much reading, to be honest. But I did manage to make time to go the movie theater, something I only do occasionally. As much I would have preferred to read the book Far from the Madding Crowd before seeing the film adaptation, let’s face it, I never liked the author anyway.

Based on the 1874 novel by Thomas Hardy, the movie stars Carey Mulligan as Bashsheba Everdene, a fiercely independent English woman who comes into a large inheritance when her uncle leaves her a large farm to manage.

Bathsheba is courted by three suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer who becomes poor after losing his flock (played by Matthias Schoenaerts), William Boldwood, a lonely older man of great wealth (Michael Sheen), and Francis Troy, a sergeant jilted by a former lover (Tom Sturridge).

For those unfamiliar with the story, I won’t give away the details, but I will say that I was pleasantly surprised that it had a happy ending. Having suffered through Hardy’s most famous and oh-so-depressing novel, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, I expected another romantic tragedy. For once, I’m glad that I was wrong!

I’m a total sucker for period dramas, and Far from the Madding Crowd is an excellent one. The English countryside is absolutely breathtaking, and I loved the cinematography and musical score. I’ll admit that it may be too slowly paced for some viewers, but all the actors did an excellent job in this character-driven tale.

I wasn’t familiar with director Thomas Vinterberg prior to watching this movie, but I was pleased to see David Nicholls on the crew as screenwriter, given that I enjoyed his novel One Day and its subsequent film adaptation starring Anne Hathaway. Overall, I can see why this movie is critically acclaimed, and I recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of 19th century history and literature.

The Latest in Literary News!

It’s a bit of an understatement to say that I’ve been busy lately. Without going into too much detail, I’ll just say that I’m going through a stressful transition, so apologies for missing blog opportunities like Top Ten Tuesday!

I’m currently reading Sisterhood Everlasting, the 2011 sequel to the Sisterhood of Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares. In the meantime before I post my review, I thought that I would pop in to share some tidbits of literary news that I’ve come across:

Image via Amazon

1.    Mindy Kaling’s second memoir Why Not Me? will be published on September 29, and is currently available for pre-order. I loved listening to the audiobook of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? so I’m sure that I’ll scoop this book up as well. It’s unfortunate that her show, “The Mindy Project,” was recently canceled, because I believe that Kaling is an under-appreciated comedic voice. She seems like such a sweet person, and I wish her success with her upcoming book!

Image via Rotten Tomatoes

2.     Thomas Vinterberg’s adaptation of “Far From the Madding Crowd” was released in limited theaters on May 1. Although I was not a fan of Thomas Hardy’s poetry or writing of Tess of the d’Urbervilles, this looks like a beautiful film. I can’t resist period dramas, especially those that star the exquisite Carey Mulligan. It has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 83%, so perhaps I should give Hardy another shot before seeing this adaptation!

Image via Monkeys Fighting Robots

3.     Aldous Huxley’s dystopian classic Brave New World is coming to the small screen with a TV series on Syfy. The network is collaborating with Steven Spielberg’s production company Amblin Television. No word yet on its release, but the bar will be set awfully high for one of my favorite books of all time.

Are you as excited as I am about these three new and upcoming releases? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Masterpiece Monday: Tess of the d’Urbervilles

Cover of "Tess of the d'Urbervilles (Oxfo...

Cover via Amazon

Rating: 2 out of 5

So I’ve finally finished the rough draft of my comprehensive paper!!! Tonight I’ll get some feedback from my amazing grad girls, and I’ll spend the rest of week fine-tuning before turning it in on Thursday. Just one step closer to graduation! But while I do feel like a huge weight’s been lifted, I can’t slack off since tomorrow I’m taking my first exam in my Media Ethics class.

One of the questions on the exam will be whether journalists should name rape victims, and my answer will be absolutely not. Not only is it unnecessary to the story, it violates the victim a second time by stripping them of their anonymity and dignity.

The tragic consequences of rape are shown in Thomas Hardy’s 1891 novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles, which is why I chose to discuss it for Masterpiece Monday. With its subtitle “A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented,” readers are faced with its connotations of moral and sexual purity.

Tess is a young peasant woman who discovers that she is related to the noble d’Urbervilles. At the May Dance, she meets Angel Clare, the son of a reverend (Yes, his name is also symbolic, and often ironic), but she is soon involved in an accident which kills her family’s horse and must visit Mrs. d’Urberville in a nearby town and ask for financial help as a relative.

Unfortunately, the woman is lying about her heritage, but Tess manages to get a job on their farm anyway. She meets Mrs. d’Urberville’s son Alec, who makes unwanted advances toward her. One night he offers to take her home but “gets lost” in a grove and rapes her while she sleeps.

The rest of the novel follows Tess’ ruined reputation. The child she birthes as the product of the rape dies after a few weeks. Angel falls in love with her and marries her, but after hearing about her past, abandons her because she was not a virgin. The neighborhood also gossips about her, filling her with shame to the point where she thinks she deserved her failed marriage. She does exact her revenge on Alec, which I won’t spoil, but it does little to relieve her of her suffering.

While I did not enjoy Hardy’s writing style and despised the characters who mistreated Tess, I appreciated the novel for reflecting the double standard women face. Angel was not a virgin either at the time of their marriage, but nobody cared. However, Tess’ loss of “purity”–which was entirely not her fault–is considered scandalous. Hardy stresses that Tess is still a good person despite her past, but sadly, she is judged for circumstances beyond her control.

Many scholars have debated whether a rape actually occurred, since Hardy is so subtle about the scene, you could read it and completely miss his point. However, I believe that Alec’s advances were completely forced upon Tess, given the references to screams later in the novel, and of course, Tess’ actions in the end.

But seriously? What’s with all the research questions? Doubting Tess’ consent just further perpetuates rape myths, as if one teeny “yes” justifies a whirlwind of “NOs.” It’s cruel that people still believe that women who dress provocatively, drink too much, or even prostitute themselves deserve to be raped. NOBODY deserves to be raped.

Instead of blaming women for poor judgments, why not blame men for being rapists?! I want to punch Alec and every rapist in the face for making their victims feel like they asked for it…but when the sad truth is that 1 in 5 women in America have suffered sexual assault, let’s face it, my fist would be pretty sore.

Rape is not about sex, it’s about power, and that’s why I’ll be against naming rape victims on my exam. Let the victim keep as much power for themselves and not let judgmental people ruin their lives. I believe that we’ve made great progress since the 1890s in regards to women’s rights, but we still have much to improve.

I wouldn’t recommend this novel, but I do encourage my readers to research rape stereotypes, raise awareness, and support prevention. Tess of the d’Urbervilles may be a dull read, in my opinion, but its themes are still profound after a hundred years.