Literary classics or semi-classics traditionally provide pitfalls in adaptation, and faithfulness can often prove a double-edged sword.
In this case, scripter Frederic Raphael has perhaps hewn too closely to Thomas Hardy’s original. Thus he has allowed director John Schlesinger only occasional – and principally mechanical – chances to forge his own film.
It is the story of Bathsheba Everdene’s multifaceted love for the three men in her life, Sergeant Troy, Gabriel Oak and Boldwood. Julie Christie, Peter Finch, Terence Stamp and Alan Bates are variedly handsome and have their many effective moments, but there is little they can ultimately and lastingly do to overcome the basic banality of their characters and, to a certain degree, their lines.
Christie has few real opportunities to branch out of her rather muted and pouty lead. Finch struggles manfully against his role as Boldwood, but never really defeats it by convincing one. Stamp is the cocky, sneering Sergeant to the part born, but there’s nary a glint of anything more. Nor does Bates have more of a chance as the ever-reliable Oak.
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1967: Nomination: Best Original Music Score