Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
United Kingdom, 1967. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Vic Films Productions. Screenplay by Frederic Raphael, based on the novel by Thomas Hardy. Cinematography by Nicolas Roeg. Produced by Joseph Janni. Music by Richard Rodney Bennett. Production Design by Richard Macdonald. Costume Design by Alan Barrett. Film Editing by Malcolm Cooke. Academy Awards 1967. Golden Globe Awards 1967.
Thomas Hardy’s tale of love and property is adapted by John Schlesinger into a modest epic starring Julie Christie as its stubborn heroine. After inheriting a large farm from a wealthy uncle, Christie hires on Alan Bates as shepherd, himself now impoverished by tragedy and no longer believing his suit for her hand in marriage possible. She catches the eye of neighboring landowner Peter Finch, whose obsession with having her mounts slowly as the story progresses, but her eye is caught by a handsome and roguish soldier (Terence Stamp) with secrets of his own. Giant, panoramic vistas of England’s gorgeous West Country bring Hardy’s landscapes to life, but Christie’s wispy performance and the mellow pace don’t quite bring a lot of immediacy to it. Her portrayal as flimsy victim to circumstance will annoy those who enjoy the determination they read in Hardy’s prose, but it is likely an attempt to make sense of her more foolish decisions, painting them as failed optimism instead of blind romantic ambition. Doing this only emphasizes a sense of passiveness on her part, the character constantly on the receiving end of the action and does not do much growing or changing throughout her three plot hours of experience. There are some very trendy montage sequences covered in sixties stylistics that will make it too dated for some, the film working best when it’s not trying to be so expressive, but the Spartan style with which it is mostly told might also make it too passionless an experience for audience members. Still, it’s a respectable film that accomplishes its aims even if it does not leap off the screen.