From Hardy to Vinterberg and back to Dorset again

Far from the Madding Crowd PosterWith the release of Thomas Vinterberg’s Far From The Madding Crowd, based on Thomas Hardy’s classic novel, Dorset County Museum is combing its unique collection of original Thomas Hardy artefacts alongside costumes from this eagerly awaited movie.

The Museum is exhibiting three beautiful dresses worn by actress Carey Mulligan who plays Hardy’s independent and strong female protagonist, Bathsheba Everdene. The movie boasts an impressive cast with Michael Sheen, Matthias Schoenaerts and Tom Sturridge starring as the three very different suitors all competing for the affections of Vinterberg’s leading lady; Carey Mulligan. This is a remarkable, once in a lifetime chance to experience the journey of Hardy’s story from its conception to its modern adaption in the very place it was inspired; Dorset.

Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd is one of the great literary classics. More than this, Hardy created one of the most iconic heroines who was so ahead of her time that the story is still strikingly modern to this day. She is a strong and independent woman, not only in her role as a farm heiress, but in the choices she faces in both life and love. She is arguably still an inspiration to any modern woman today, as she confronts the pressures of being a woman in man’s world whilst she attempts to uncover what, and who, her heart truly desires.

Vinterberg’s Vision for Dorset and its Leading Lady

In this film, Vinterberg envisaged his leading lady as a character who is as importance in modern times as when Hardy first imagined her. He described his Bathsheba Everdene as, ‘I wanted her to be this strong woman ahead of her time, who takes no orders from anyone, who steps into a man’s world with a female power that wasn’t really accepted at that time, that is still a topic of debate over 100 years later. And yet, at the same time, I wanted her to be this vulnerable woman trying to learn the rhythms of men and her surroundings. That duality is what makes her so rich and so alluring.’

Far From Madding Crowd Costumes

Costumes worn by Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene, in the wedding scenes in the film. There is the smart dress and hat of the runaway wedding day, the gold striped silk dress and embroidered silk jacket of her homeward journey, and a dress worn at the wedding party. Jonathan North /DCM © 2015

It is through Bathsheba’s wardrobe that this aim is truly achieved. The costumes, designed by four times Academy Award nominee Janet Patterson (The Piano, Bright Star), are the visual expression of Bathsheba’s empowering characteristics. Her attire shows how ‘Vinterberg wanted to avoid the crinolines and bustles associated with Victoriana, so he moved the story’s action to 1880, when fashion suddenly turned to a sleeker, more modern silhouette – one more befitting a woman who rides, climbs ladders and jumps into the sheep dip.’ The Museum’s exhibition with three of these very costumes truly brings to life this vision of Vinterberg’s. They are all beautifully elegant and reflect Bathsheba’s attractiveness; whilst also having a striking and commanding presence.

Where the Past meets the Present

These exquisite costumes stand alongside some of Hardy’s original manuscripts and belongings. The Museum boasts an impressive collection of Thomas Hardy’s artefacts such as a manuscript of part of Far From The Madding Crowd, Volume I of first edition of Far From The Madding Crowd from 1874 and a Valentine card sent to his sister, Kate, (perhaps similar to the one Bathsheba sends to Farmer Boldwood). These original pieces are combined with modern paperback editions of the novel and souvenir booklets from both the silent film made 100 years ago by Turner Films and the upcoming 2015 version of Far From the Madding Crowd distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Original Thomas Hardy's manuscript of 'Far from the Madding Crowd' on display at the museum

Original Thomas Hardy’s manuscript of ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ on display at the museum. DCM © 2015

Dorset as an Original and Modern Muse

Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene in the new film adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel Far From Madding Crowd

Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene in the new film adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel Far From Madding Crowd – Fox Searchlight Pictures © 2015

Famously, Dorset played such an important role in the inspiration for Hardy’s novel. However, you might not be aware of the equally important role Dorset played in Vinterberg’s version of Far From The Madding Crowd. Thomas Vinterberg’s vision for his adaptation involved shooting right here in our very own Dorset. Vinterberg described Dorset as ‘the only place to shoot’ his movie. He was quoted saying, ‘Shooting on location was a necessity. These landscapes are so important to these characters and to the whole feeling of the story. We had to come here and get the real thing. We stayed in the places Hardy was inspired by, we embraced the surroundings and we felt a complete sense of surrender to this universe.’

So for your chance to witness this incredible fusion of Thomas Hardy’s original works alongside this impressive modern adaptation, get down to Dorset County Museum; the very place that inspired a story which has lasted, and is still powerful, over 100 years later. And don’t forget, you can see Vinterberg’s adaptation of, Far From The Madding Crowd, in cinemas from 1st May.

The costumes from the film are currently on display at the Dorset County Museum and on display until 8th June 2015. For further information contact the Museum on 01305 756827 or check the website on

Gabriella Crouch

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