Happy Birthday, Thomas Hardy (part 2)!

from http://www.anglotopia.net/british-history/great-britons-thomas-hardy-novelist-scandalized-victorian-britain/

So here at the Great British TV site we’re celebrating Thomas Hardy’s June 2nd birthday with a couple of posts about film and TV adaptations of his work. Happy 176th birthday, Tom!

And it turns out there have been a surprising number of adaptations of Thomas Hardy’s work. Who knew? Today we’ll talk about a couple of more that I’ve seen, and then you’ll have to excuse me, I’ll be off to try and track down “Romina,” whatever that is.

Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)

Okay, technically, this was a major motion picture (a UK film, produced by BBC films), not a British TV adaptation, but it did star British actress Carey Mulligan, and was adapted by David Nicholls (British author of the awesome novel/screenplay Starter for Ten and the so/so–although hugely popular–novel/screenplay One Day), so it’s got its British bona fides in order.

Far from the Madding Crowd has never been my favorite Hardy. For one thing, I never cease to be annoyed that the heroine, Bathsheba, initially falls in love with the flashy soldier. Yeah, yeah, he’s dashing, I get it. But he’s also a dick. And if there’s one thing I’ve noticed, the dickiness always outlasts the dashing.

But full props to this one for casting Carey Mulligan as the woman every man wants to fall in love with (an old friend/employee of hers, Gabriel Oak, also loves her, as does her solitary but deeply passionate older neighbor William Boldwood*); I don’t think she’s stereotypically gorgeous but she’s both beautiful and a very strong actress, which is what the part requires. So. Have you read the story? Seen the adaptation? Who do you think Bathsheba ends up with? Who should she end up with?

And then there’s ooh, The Mayor of Casterbridge. Yet another super depressing Hardy story, turning on the secret that the titular Mayor of Casterbridge does not have a squeaky-clean past. The 2003 ITV adaptation gets extra points for its use of the always-excellent Ciaran Hinds.

Holy cow, it’s been so long since I’ve seen that that I forgot James Purefoy was in it. HOW COULD I FORGET A THING LIKE THAT?

I can remember the broad plot outlines (drunken man sells his wife and infant daughter to another man, wakes up the next day to what he’s done but is too late to bring them back, goes stone cold sober, eventually becomes respected merchant and mayor of Casterbridge, until other entanglements and the revelation of his past come back to haunt him, and really everyone who has anything to do with him), but just had to read the Wikipedia page to remember the fine print. Wow, good old Thomas Hardy did not stint on the human folly, death, and heartbreak. Only watch this one if you feel the need for a good cathartic downer movie (as in: “wow, I had a bad week, but holy shit, if Thomas Hardy’s characters didn’t have bad luck, they’d have no luck at all”).

It is for that reason that I’m not even going to suggest the film adaptation of Jude the Obscure, (“Jude“) although Christopher Eccleston and Kate Winslet make it worth watching. But whatever Hardy you watch (with the exception of the much lighter, much more romantic, much more comic, Under the Greenwood Tree), you’re going to have to go at least two years before you watch another Hardy, because it would just be too emotionally draining to do otherwise.

*Seriously, no one is as great and as unsubtle at coming up with character names as Thomas Hardy.

2 Comments

  1. Hey, I just read a little reflection on The Mayor of Casterbridge. Although we don’t often sell our wife and child while drunk, we do all do things that cannot be undone, so probably good to consider how to deal with that sort of thing, and why not through fiction.
    As someone once said, Thomas Hardy was not the guy you’d want to ask, What’s the worst that could happen?

  2. M.A.,
    I’m pretty sure everyone has done something “under the influence” that they’d rather not remember. That’s the genius of Thomas Hardy. His scenarios are extreme…but not unimaginable. Good old T.H., always good at making you think, “There but for the grace of God…”

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