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Details

Produced by WGBH Boston and Granada films UK, 1998. Directed by Nicholas Renton (Hamish Macbeth. Cast: Paloma Baeza (Bathsheba Everdene), Nigel Terry (Boldwood), Jonathan Firth (Sgt. Troy), Natasha Little (Fanny Robin) and Nathaniel Parker (Gabriel Oak).

 



 

Plot Summary

Bathsheba Everdene is a young woman - very young - who is uncommonly beautiful and headstrong. She wrecks havoc in the lives of three men who became enslaved to her beauty. The first is long suffering Gabriel Oak (played by Nat), who is a good man of humble means - too humble to have any real chance with Bathsheba. He loyally runs her farm for her and observes the others fall under her spell. The other two victims are Mr. Boldwood, a mature neighboring farmer who falls in love for the first time with Bathsheba, and a young solider, Troy, who is a womanizer also temporarily blinded by Bathsheba's charms. Things go from complex to truly rotten as Troy and Boldwood and Bathsheba jockey for position. Oak is left to pick up the pieces.

General Review

Much of the credit for the charm of this film goes to Hardy's original story. The characters are flawed and human, and Hardy manages to grab the viewer's attention with a plot that is constantly twisting, incorporating elements romantic, lurid, and gothic. This plot is both very modern and very Victorian, with much going on. One scene involves the opening of a coffin and another a faked drowning. This is "pot-boiler" stuff. But Hardy elevates it with his detailed portrait of the English countryside, of its people and the farming life. This particular production handles this aspect of the story splendidly, with character actors - and accents - that are extremely authentic and really give you a sense of time and place, of a simpler life. Meanwhile, the leads - Bathsheba, Oak, Boldwood, and Troy - are all well cast and supply moving performances. An excellent production of an excellent story and one of the best Masterpiece Theater minis in many a year.

Nat Review

This was a wonderful role for Nat and he played it extremely well. It's an ideal role for a leading man because Oak, watching Bathsheba's misbegotten dalliances with silent suffering and loyalty, is the kind of man all women wish they could find. It takes Bathsheba forever to see Oak's virtues, and all the while you feeling like screaming at your TV screen, telling her to stop being such an idiot! Nat sports an authentic Hardy, peasant-class accent here, and in his rough, deep voice it sounds just right. He's the quintessential honest, hard-working, unglamorous but solid as oak (no coincidence) man of the land. And he has that sort of 'special touch' with animals and the soil that is almost magical. Much of what Oak conveys, though, we see on his face alone - and Nat manages to show us both Oak's passion and suffering and to make him, almost paradoxically, just as proud as Bathsheba, determined not to speak even if it kills him. That adds a lot of depth over Alan Bates' 1967 performance of Oak, which by comparison made him too much the milksop and martyr. This is the definitive Nathaniel Parker film. Trivia Alan Bates played Gabriel Oak in the 1967 version of Far from the Madding Crowd. Bates played Claudius to Nat's Laertes in Hamlet. Besides, that's the second time that Nat has a romantic counterpart with the name Bathsheba (David). Plus we have a déjà-vu with Natasha Little, yes she's played ruthless Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair and we meet Paloma Baeza again in Lover's Prayer.

Status

Video and DVD is widely available for purchase or rent in the US and UK.

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