I have never read a good word about this film in any movie guide, which frankly baffles me. I think it's a masterpiece, and despite Hardy being one of my favourite authors, I think this is actually better than the novel. It also contains two absolutely perfect moments. But first some general comments. The photography is gorgeous, actually looking more realistic than idyllic, beautiful but sometimes cold and forboding, brooding over the tragic proceedings. Secondly, the remarkable soundtrack by Richard Rodney Bennett lends the movie a good deal of its emotiveness. The use of English folk songs to comment on the proceedings is ingenious, sometimes impressively reflective of the situations, and at points extremely unsettling.
Julie Christie is beautiful and I found her Bathsheba the precise mixture of headstrong independence and vulnerability. Terence Stamp's repulsive Troy is a triumph of casting and Alan Bates is wonderful as the simpliest of her suitors. The film is stolen for me though by Peter Finch, who begins a hat trick of devastating performances, here, in The Trials of Oscar Wilde and Sunday Bloody Sunday. His Boldwood is a remarkable creation, so eligible, so tragic, so lost and helpless. His scene with Bathsheba when she suggests Christmas to be a time when she will make a decision on their future is heartbreaking. "Christmas," he smiles. "I'm happier now." But the scene that should surely secure this movie a place in film history is that in the graveyard. Without spoling the plot for those who have yet to see it, the gargoyle spewing rainwater over the graves as the sound of "The Bold Grenadier" plays is as affecting an image as one is ever likely to see on screen. The Boldwood plot has a darker outcome here than in the book, which I'm sure Hardy would have approved of. This is a beautiful and disturbing movie that does not shy away from Hardy's bleak view of existence, and adds to the mix a strong sense of gritty 60s honesty. Beautiful, devastating and unforgettable.