Out now in Cineworld, Far from the Madding Crowdis a sweepingly beautiful and emotional adaptation of Thomas Hardy's beloved novel.
Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan gives an outstanding performance as Bathsheba Everdene, a free-spirited woman living in 19th century Dorset who finds herself courted by three very different men: shepherd Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), landowner Mr. Boldwood (Michael Sheen) and dashing soldier Sergeant Troy (Tom Sturridge).
We sat down with cinematographer Charlotte Bruus Christensen for an exclusive two-part interview. In part one, we discuss the challenges of bringing Hardy's work to the screen, and what it was like to work with star Mulligan.
Your work on this film is beautiful and really brings this classic story to life. Was it a love of Thomas Hardy’s novel that drew you to the project?
I was very inspired by the novel and I read it twice. Personally, I was very worried and intrigued and excited about how I was going to stay true to the beautiful descriptions that Thomas Hardy has in his novel. It’s so hard to photograph a view effectively. Details about shadows or sheep in the distance or the light or the rolling hills. It was very important for Thomas Vinterburg and I to capture the landscape of Dorset. That’s a character on its own, as well as Bathsheba.
At the same time I was excited to be working with director Thomas Vinterburg again. We’ve done three films now and we share a vision. We see things in the same way. So I was trying to match the descriptions of Thomas Hardy with the vision of the director.
You worked with Thomas Vinterburg on your debut feature Submarino and also the fantastic film The Hunt. What do you think he brings to this adaptation as a director?
He brings truth. He brings a nerve. On our previous films, we’ve worked a look with faces, or often a look between two people. This film is Dorset, it’s Hardy, it’s about one woman and three men yet it’s also about Bathsheba’s look, the image she projects when she’s singing or being watched by other people. Those little details where Thomas Vinterburg has that very fine tuned eye.
But what he ultimately brings is the ability to get under the skin. It’s a sweeping Thomas Hardy romance yet there are several scenes where we go in completely the other direction, no storyboarding, just Thomas, the actors and I feeling a scene, a sense, a look between two people. And we improvise for the camera. There’s a lot of handheld work. We didn’t necessarily want it to come across as a documentary but we equally wanted the audience to steer away from the dresses and costumes, which so many period dramas focus on.
Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan gives an incredibly sensitive and intuitive performance as Bathsheba. What was she like to work with?
She’s a star. And I'm not just saying that. It comes from my heart. She is a very truthful actress and that’s why she’s perfect for this role. She carried around a copy of the novel with her during filming and you should have seen it – ‘used’ I think is the word. Lots of underlines and different colours and pieces of paper to mark out key scenes. She’s a very fine-tuned actress.
Bathsheba is a very complex character, at times naïve and also extremely intelligent. To have that range of feelings and senses as an actress and to be able to put it across to an audience is very impressive. Very often she’s working without dialogue. In one scene, she's simply sat in front of a mirror brushing her hair but she’s able to communicate that Bathsheba has come to an important decision. Carey is offering things with her fine-tuned acting and she does it with such grace. She’s a perfectionist, a very hard worker.
Check back next week for part two of our interview with Charlotte, in which she talks about filming on location in the rolling hills of rural Dorset, and why she thinks Hardy's novel has endured to this day.