New Movies: Vivid Victoriana

Before he became a novelist, Thomas Hardy was an architect. Though he seldom practiced his profession, he never quite abandoned its principles. Like Victorian buildings, his books were sturdily constructed, gloomy, and based on strong, pseudo-classic foundations —mostly imitation Greek tragedy. The film of Far from the Madding Crowd remains faithful to that arrangement —and therein lie its virtues and flaws.

In the grassy, sheep-grazing county of "Wessex" — England's Dorsetshire —lives Bathsheba Everdene (Julie Christie), a typical calamity-prone Hardy heroine. Willful, flirtatious, she is pursued by men with names as solid...

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