Thomas Hardy’s classic novel Far from the Madding Crowd makes breathtaking cinema, the perfect October romance to curl up with as you imagine harvest time while sipping your pumpkin spice latte. Set in 19th century pastoral England, its cast of characters will pull you into their world and you will never want to leave.
He is a Christ figure.
Bathsheba Everdine, a young woman orphaned and left to fend for herself in the world, toils on her aunt’s farm with a fiery passion but few means to channel her independent spirit. She turns down a marriage proposal from neighboring sheep farmer Gabriel Oak. She says that she has no need to marry and that he could never tame her. She is the young woman we visionary women can all relate to when we were setting out with little experience, lofty ideals and a winning sense of the possible. She is lovable and admirable for her boldness at a time when women had few opportunities.
Miss Everdine is given her chance when she receives notice that her wealthy uncle has died and left her his entire estate. Determined to run the farm herself, she soundly admonishes the hired hands for letting it fall into disrepair. The journey to becoming a profitable farmer in a man’s world is a difficult one for her, but she takes it on with unflagging energy.
Her story is one of great strides towards independence but little humility in the struggle to be autonomous. Gabriel Oaks has lost his sheep farm in a night’s tragedy, and he becomes a faithful and deeply virtuous light in her life whom she does not fully appreciate as her hired hand. Though they work side by side in the physically exhausting work of the farm, she thinks herself above him. She coquettishly leads on a neighboring landowner who falls in love with her but whom she cannot love in return. Finally, in her passion, she gives her heart and her hand in marriage to a dashing young soldier whose character reveals itself to be as shallow and untrustworthy as Gabriel wisely foretold.
Though one is drawn and moved by Bathsheba Everdine’s unflagging spirit, it is truly Gabriel Oaks who shines in this film, a man of honesty and love so true that he seeks only what is genuinely good for Bathsheba. He is a Christ figure who ultimately is able to touch the haughtiness of a woman’s heart which has put up high walls of self sufficiency and pride. This film is a gem which will not be easy to forget.