Tuesday, October 26, 2010

'Far From The Madding Crowd' Open Thread

What are your thoughts?


  1. This looks pretty good, kids. I should have it by tomorrow!

  2. I won't be able to join you on this one. I looked around since you first mentioned it, checked out dozens of places, and couldn't find it. There were lots of dangerous neighborhoods to navigate. I guess this wasn't very popular with the "alternative" sources.

  3. Huh. I guess you have to give up first, before you finally find what you're looking for. Strike what I said. It looks like this is a go.

  4. Excellent. I started it last night and should finish tonight. I love it so far. I did not recall having any feeling for Sgt Troy when I saw it years ago, but his calm and strong manner with Fanny was very steady and endearing. His humiliation at being made to wait, and the flash of pride and anger was so small, and yet he is a young man, and his reaction reminded me of younger days.

    But Alan Bates, what a handsome rascal, with that wavy hair and his confident, competent manner. I love Peter Finch - perfect. And the scenery is gorgeous. It is a fine show. I look forward to hearing what you all have to say

  5. His humiliation at being made to wait, and the flash of pride and anger was so small, and yet he is a young man, and his reaction reminded me of younger days.

    Hmm. You are far more forgiving of the young Sergeant than I.

    All of the performances were wonderful, and I think I liked the story (even with the inevitable tragedies) but there are a couple of points on which I am unclear and uneasy -- I don't want to be spoiler-ish, so I'll save my questions for a while.

    What beautiful settings, both the magnificent old houses and the countryside. And those cliffs at the beach! Now I have to look up where it was filmed, and see if there's any connection to the "white cliffs of Dover."

    I did enjoy it -- I'll write more later after I percolate a bit.

  6. Done and done.

    I hated Terrence Stamp's Sgt. Troy from the moment I laid eyes on him. Even the way he pronounces her name annoys me. I find Bathsheba's
    instant "love" suspect--although I know we all make mistakes. The scene with her being fascinated by that swordplay (no euphemism here)
    was definety the dream of a male writer. You'll have to deliver a female who would find that clever, wise, amazing, funny, or sensible, etc., to me so that I could question her myself and run tests. If Boldwood hadn't shot him, I think I might have by that point. If anyone is looking for a divergence from the book, the movie implies that Boldwood is executed (the coffin being built, the last image we see). The book has him confined at Queen Victoria's pleasure, after a plea for mercy by our girl.

    Did anyone not quess that our fair lady would NOT wind up with Alan Bates (Gabriel)? Didn't think so.

    I don't think we'll ever see a 2:38 movie again. I can't believe I ever sat through two like that.
    I had to take at least four breaks to make it through.

    More later as we all proceed. Now who here want to let the air out of a sheep?

  7. Dorset was Hardy's home and the setting for most of his work. The Southern coast of England is virtually a straight line parallel to France.
    Dover is at the extreme East, Penzance near the extrem West. Dorset/Weatherbury is just to the West of the center point(Portsmouth).

  8. ... the flash of pride and anger was so small, and yet he is a young man...

    Jim, I don't know whether I give too little benefit of the doubt, or you give too much. I think Frank Troy is more than young and vain, more than arrogant and quick to anger. I think there is cruelty in him; even where he cares, he is unmoved by -- if not deliberate about -- the pain he inflicts.

    When we first meet Sgt. Troy, when Fanny intercepts the soldiers riding to the garrison, he lets her become quite distressed before acknowledging he understands her concern about the wedding. He is still capable of love, he does love, and that element of joy overcomes his purported indifference. But, he is certain of his conquest, so there is no apology, no reassurance on the point of her concern.

    He is an attractive and talented young man who has grown up far too sure of his conquests. When he catches Bathsheba alone after dusk, he is playful, flirtatious, deliberately embarrassing, and phenomenally improper towards her -- making an assumption about her social class and perhaps her virtue as well. To Bathsheba he knows he must make an apology, if he is to further the acquaintance, but it is out of practical calculation rather than remorse for having distressed her.

    Does the novel give any more hint as to what became of Fanny Robin after the ugly scene at the church? If not, it's probably safe to guess that, having abandoned her position at Weatherbury, she found someplace else to work until her pregnancy was discovered and she was turned out. But we never see any effort on Frank's part to locate this girl he had already promised to marry.

    Frank may love Fanny, but his head is almost reflexively turned by a new beauty; he is drawn to Bathsheba initially as a new conquest, then as a wealthy wife. As ill-suited to farming as he is uninterested in it, he takes what he can from Bathsheba, charming her into complaisance when he must. But apparently being asked to show the very little responsibility she asks of him is too much, and when a lucky tide offers him the opportunity to leave her and Weatherbury behind, he literally runs away to join the circus. (There's no point to saying "Good riddance to bad rubbish" when the sea carries him away -- he just washes up on a different shore. ;) ) He has no interest in returning to his wife until he suspects she might actually be able to get over him, that she might pick up her life and spend it in the company of a man who values her. And that effrontery is not to be borne; he makes his miraculous reappearance as public, and as painful, as possible.

    I think a lot of people would have been better off if Fanny Robin had had a brother.


  9. I find Bathsheba's instant "love" suspect--although I know we all make mistakes. The scene with her being fascinated by that swordplay (no euphemism here) was definitely the dream of a male writer.

    First love is often very sudden -- we old fogies knock it down a peg to infatuation, and infatuation is generally the result of sexual attraction. We know that Bathsheba is accustomed to being admired *, and her aunt suggests dozens of young men have attempted to woo her, but Bathsheba makes it clear to Gabriel Oak that she won't marry him because she doesn't love him, not because her heart is given elsewhere.

    She is also accustomed to the courtesy given those of any social standing and especially to women. Frank Troy is a new animal altogether for her. He is physically attractive, young and virile, which she discovers in the midst of her confusion at finding herself in a stranger's arms in the dark. He is immediately admiring and flattering, but in such overly familiar, insolent terms that her emotional reactions are all over the place. He knows this -- he is well aware of the effect he has on young women, he is as handy with his charms as he is soon to be with his sword. She is already fascinated, confused, flustered, and attracted from the first meeting; the swordplay, the sense of danger, his indications of attachment so at odds with the recklessness in his playing with her safety -- he knows exactly what he's doing; she hasn't a clue. He makes her heart race, all the while smiling his roguish smile into her eyes. She's young; hormones + adrenaline = love.

    * Because she is accustomed to admiration and attention, and because she is young and unthinking, she sees Mr. Boldwood's confirmed bachelorhood as a challenge. The valentine she sends him is meant to mock as much as intrigue, and as impudent a gesture as it is, she could not have imagined, much less intended, the Pandora's Box it would open. Boldwood is such a sad case, as attractive as Peter Finch makes him. But we know he is unusually singleminded -- "He's married to his farm" is the explanation for his never looking to marry any of the young women who had hoped for his attention. When he becomes infatuated with Bathsheba -- infatuated with her beauty and lively sprits -- his tendency to fixate becomes an obsession. And the madness that drives him to kill Frank Troy is then compounded by his no longer being able to deny Bathsheba's love for him.

    (Funny they didn't just leave it at showing Boldwood sitting, rather catatonic, in his cell -- that would have sufficed for the end of his story with no other explanation really needed. It seems oddly pointless to change his story for the movie from that of the novel.)

    Interesting parallels between Bathshebs'a heartlessness and Frank Troy's -- hers being a matter of youth and vanity, but, as we see in moments like her distress over the unhappiness she realizes she has caused Boldwood, she takes no pleasure in inflicting pain. She outgrows her unkindnesses; Frank refines his.


  10. Now. Something I found unsettling at the end of the movie, that I hope you guys will give your impressions of:

    Throughout the story, Gabriel Oak is clearly the hero, as strong and constant as his name tells us (and I think names must be a big deal in this book, but I haven't really sorted through that yet). If he seems less than wise in courting a girl who is as vain as she is spoilt, we can perhaps credit him with seeing in her the somewhat more capable woman than we might expect, that she does, indeed, become. He accepts her inelegant refusal, but remains a steadfast friend to her both as servant and counselor.

    And we see that Bathsheba does mature, does gain judgement and humiity, does, in fact , make good her promise to her farm workers to "astonish (them) all." She survives the loss of her heart and the believed loss of her husband, as well as her guilt and fears about Boldwood's obsession, still looking to Gabriel for the support he offers.

    By the time the matter of Frank Troy's (real) death is settled, Gabriel has prospered so well at Weatherbury that he is expected to rent Boldwood -- he has been restored, through his own efforts, to an economic level close enough to Bathsheba's that he can again consider marriage to her. And now she accepts him.

    But I was very bothered by the lack of anything stronger between them than accustomed compatibility in their final scene together, and I'm wondering whether we are to take it that it is too late for love, or whether I'm just not seeing it in these particular performances. That last lingering shot of the music box soldier isn't helping me any, either.

  11. "...and her aunt suggests dozens of young men have attempted to woo her..."

    She's had not a dozen, nor three or two or one--that's just "salescraft" on the part of her auntie. She was looking for love, as she imagined it then--red hot, "burning" love. Later, after the experience of Sgt. Troy, she realizes that kind of love doesn't last. Her definition of love changes over the course of the movie and she comes to realize that she really did love Gabriel Oak all along. And that he loved her. She was really asking for his patience when she turned down his offer of marriage at the cottage initially. She knew she was young and independent and unsure of what she wanted. When she wrote "don't abandon me now" to get him to tend the sheep [and wasn't that a believable plot device, he being the only one in the county that could do it] it was in reference to their unspoken "arrangement" of future marriage. Covering the straw and hay to keep the animals from starving over the Winter with him reinforced their bond. She confirmed that she was ready when she asked him to stay rather than travel to America. That music box "snow globe" without the snow was a representation of her (their) journey--as if created by fate the moment she was born. All her follies were there--including the not-so-good Sgt. Troy. If he were her true love he would wait. And he did. She was now the person who accepted that Gabriel Oak met all her expectations.

  12. Sgt Troy loved no one but himself. What he said to Bathsheba was a substitute for his fists. Not to spare her pain but intensify it.

    When he found Fanny hiding in the stable and she told him that she had no place to go [and they made it obvious that something more than being tired was wrong with her], did he find her a place there for the night? Did he offer he a hot meal? Did he even offer her a ride to the workhouse? Surely everyone is aware that a six-mile(?)walk would do even a simple illness no good. In his offer to set Fanny up in town, was his mind dwelling on Fanny and their past? Or was he looking foward to his future trysts? Mighty generous, scraping together ten pounds when he had just lost 150 in a cockfight. What a guy!

    The walk into the ocean was more an expression of boredom and a reflection that the jig was up with his wife--he was reduced to begging for a few quid for his diversions and she was no longer treating him as the center of her universe.

  13. When he found Fanny hiding in the stable

    -- he initially tried to talk her out of going to the work-house -- until he saw she was pregnant, and realized having her out of sight was essential. I think he did, he still does, love Fanny, and fully intends to take care of her. (Nice bit of irony there, him waiting, her not showing up at the appointed time.) And when he finds she has died, and their child with her, he comes apart. He's so distraught he turns on Bathsheba in a way that no playful apology is going to fix.

    But I don't think that walk into the sea was intended suicide; I think he was trying to work out his emotions and his options as he walked to whatever place he would pick to re-create himself, and turned to a swim as something physical to do to manage his discomfort. (Or, maybe he was just hot.)

  14. So he thinks a 6-mile walk will do her good
    knowing that she is pregnant? That puts a better spin on it. I stand corrected. ;-)

  15. Hey, they're country folk. They walk all the time.


  16. Hey. I once asked a woman out not knowing she was pregnant. And I didn't notice 'till we were dancing, several hours later. In my defense, she was kind of a 5'10-inch version of Amanda Graystone that looked like Margaret from Boardwalk Empire. Even had the same Irish brogue and manner.

  17. I think there was a lot said in this movie, about people and the way they interact, about character and its shaping and consequences.

    "At home by the fire, whenever I look up, there you will be. And whenever you look up, there I shall be."

    I love the poetry in the things Gabriel says, the value that is held in the meaning. The notion of being present for one another, the steadiness, the not prizing gain for self so much as valuing the commitment made to another, as a matter of course.

    In younger days I was somewhat like Sgt. Troy, likely to make a bad decision, likely to blame others for it. And that shallow pride that so stiffens him and kills all the natural kindness and graciousness that he had the capacity for. There's an ugliness and smallness to it. I think Frank loved Fanny, but couldn't bring himself to be embarrassed as he was by her. In hating himself he went down a bad path, the marrying of Bathsheba was just a part of it. He didn't love her, certainly, and the fact that he had a certain power over her appealed to the weaker aspects of his character. Marrying a wealthy woman seemed like a plumb, but he wasn't happy in it, and eventually came to resent it, and her for representing it. Sad business, that. If he could have overcome his pride and married Fanny, he would have been a much happier man.

    Bathsheba I thought to be a simple, silly woman at the beginning of the film, who matures significantly over its course. To send a valentine to Mr. Boldwood, simply because it was there and shouldn't go to waste, and then to write "Marry Me" and nothing more...what a perfectly silly thing to do. The woman clearly had no notion of how the idea of a woman can play on the heart of a man. Poor Mr. Boldwood was not so steady as Oak, and ended up being consumed by the idea of being married to Bathsheba. I loved the drawers all filled with wrapped gifts and presents he had bought for her, to be given at such a time as might present in the future... but no such time ever did present. It underscored the fact that she played on his mind all the time. His desire for her was off, and he couldn't see that was the case.

    I loved the depiction of Bathsheba being isolated by her position, the fact that she had no one to confide in, her shame over being whispered about by her house staff and her feelings of being all alone in dealing with the hardships of life. And Mr. Boldwood's shock after shooting Frank Troy dead, to see Bathsheba crying hysterically over him, and to realize that it was Frank Troy that she desired... and not him.

    Gabriel was a steady, good man throughout. I loved the man's constancy.

    The movie was not broadly popular at the time it came out, though it is ranked as being in the top 100 British movies made (at #78, I understand). There is an Alan Bates Film Archive, and he speaks of his role there:

    "By the way, I didn't want to play my part in 'Far From the Madding Crowd', simply because I felt it would come as no surprise to anybody that I could do it, you know. It called on certain qualities that I'd used before. And I think it's necessary to surprise people -- and to surprise myself. Perhaps I'm trying to prove something to myself. I suppose I am. Why not? I would much rather have played Troy. Anyway, I didn't. But I mean, Gabriel Oak is a great part, and he's quite difficult because he's so good. Wise and patient people are very difficult to act." --Alan Bates as interviewed by Gordon Gow for Films and Filming, June 1971.

    Very true.

  18. I love the poetry in the things Gabriel says, the value that is held in the meaning. The notion of being present for one another, the steadiness, the not prizing gain for self so much as valuing the commitment made to another, as a matter of course.

    This is great-- it really captures what I loved about Gabriel.

    I loved the depiction of Bathsheba being isolated by her position, the fact that she had no one to confide in, her shame over being whispered about by her house staff and her feelings of being all alone in dealing with the hardships of life.

    I hadn't thought about the difficulty of her position. She seemed to have a good friend in Liddy, but a young servant is a poor mentor for an even younger mistress. Nice point.

  19. "But I was very bothered by the lack of anything stronger between them than accustomed compatibility in their final scene together.."

    The tale was told when he rode up in the carriage with her by his side. That, and at the wedding itself. The look on her face of absolute contented happiness was for this story what we were really looking for. I would have been disappointed, as would you, for the more obvious displays of affection that may actually mean so little. She has grown greatly, and Gabriel is very happy by her. It was an ending which underscored the maturity, steadiness and happiness that the main characters were rewarded with, after each going through so much.

  20. Yes, she really can't confide in Liddy, and her true feelings for Sgt Troy come rushing out at her, almost against Bathsheba's will... but she simply cannot keep these feelings and fears inside any longer, even though Liddy is a part of the house staff, and not an equal that she can confide in. Gabriel is an equal that she can confide in, and she gains that luxury after much pain and heartache.

  21. One scene I loved was when the hands of the Everdine farm were all seated at a celebratory table, with Bathsheba at one end and Gabriel at t'other, and they all took turns taking the lead in singing a song together. It was such a good image of an extended family. It greatly reminded me of my Irish cousins coming to visit, the making of the Irish Cream which Con McSweany was very particular about, and the gathering round to sing a song. My mother sang Tula rula rula. It came to my turn and I stood up and offered up "Oh Danny Boy", to the great delight of our relatives. I doubt it was that good, but it surprised them all to hear me sing it, they thoroughly enjoyed the fact that I would.

    The one fellow whose song was offered, though he didn't have the gift, sung for the amusement of the gathered friends, but not so much at him as with him, it was all very fine. Nah, it was grand, grand. Come to mind, I gained that expression, that something good could be called 'grand', from our Irish cousins, here twenty-four years ago. I still use it often.

  22. How great that your family keeps its ties to long-held traditions. We need more things to reinforce our sense of connectedness to our extended families and communities.

    And, of course, I'm absolutely smitten by the idea of you singing Danny Boy!

  23. Hey! It just dawned on me it's my turn! Sorry -- I'm still a little out of it.

    So, I have a question -- anybody with a preference between Arsenic and Old Lace and Election?

  24. Sorry, I've been kinda out of it. Election? Is that with Robert Redford?

    I've gotta get a couple of posts going. The election was good but it could have been better, and with creeps like Lisa Murkowski and Charlie Crist and that cheese head Mike Castle, that just will not do a darn thing for the good of the party and the conservative movement, and just are all about keeping their own sorry ass in office, it's almost criminal. No way that would happen on the Democrat side. Step aside for the good of your own future over there. But on our side, the RNC leadership doesn't realize that there is no future in 'Liberal Light', that the country is at stake. Makes me ill.

    Anyway, it is a good start.

  25. It is a good start; a lot of the entrenched who didn't lose their jobs got a good wake-up. And the power is spread around enough that maybe nobody will get cocky.

    Election -- very young Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick.

  26. Oh yes, and all those close ups of Reese Witherspoon's lips, and the trouble the hapless Broderick gets into trying to throw the election... for the good of everyone involved at the school, of course.

    Yeah, I think I might steer wide of that one, but whatever is your preference. I'll watch it with you. Be glad to. : )

  27. Arsenic and Old Lace, then? No politics; just crazy people.

  28. Not that there's much to discuss -- it's just fun. (And I'm watching it, anyway.)

    I'm really dreadfully uninspired, so if anyone else has a show to suggest, I'm up for it.

  29. I've been thinking about Wind to watch as a background story, non-featured show. Perhaps a young Kenneth Branaugh in Henry V? How about some of the others you've wanted to watch? Cold Comfort Farm, Doctor Zhivago, Casablanca, or the hard to find but very enjoyable Threshold or You Gotta Stay Happy? It's the holidays coming up, Cath. We've just gotta get a holiday movie in or two. Have you ever seen Holiday Affair with Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh? The Christmas show I want to go with is The Family Stone - that was a good one, but lots of fun can be had.

    Hmmm. : )

  30. Oh, let's do Cold Comfort Farm -- it's an excellent (tongue-in-cheek) follow-up to Thomas Hardy, and I need a bit of wackiness.

    And we need to work up our holiday-movie list, so we don't miss anything critical. :)

  31. Cold Comfort Farm. Okay!

    Top of my list. Couple of days.

  32. Much of the film was made in the village of Bloxworth (Dorset), and extensively, Bloxworth House. It 'starred' many locals as extras including the much loved and missed Vic Stone. We have an upcoming slide show and talk coming up in the village Club in November; looking forward to it...

  33. Hey, that sounds like fun! Well, it was a very beautiful setting for the film, the rolling hills, the rugged coastline. Lovely.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  34. Just to add that Maiden Castle, Dorchester (a magnificent iron age hill fort - a true collosus) was the scene of Sgt Troy's er, 'meeting' with Bathsheba. If you ever get the chance, go see it!

  35. For those that may be interested in the making of the film: