Far from the Madding Crowd (1998)

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Released 7-Oct-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1998
Running Time 201:18
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (110:12) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Nicholas Renton
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Paloma Baeza
Nathaniel Parker
Nigel Terry
Jonathan Firth
Natasha Little
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music John Keane


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    No, this is not the 1967 film starring Julie Christie as Bathsheba, Terence Stamp as Troy, Peter Finch as Boldwood, and Alan Bates as Gabriel. This is actually the Granada TV mini-series, helpfully concatenated into one continuously running feature.

    This version of Far From The Madding Crowd is a reasonably faithful adaptation of Thomas Hardy's book of the same name. Although his second novel, it was the first that sold well, and was responsible for him penning a whole set of novels based on the imaginary county of "Wessex" (in reality not too dissimilar from his native Dorset).

    Bathsheba Everdene (Paloma Baeza) is a pretty, strong willed, independent woman. Her only weakness is that she is somewhat vain and susceptible to flattery from men, and men of course are strongly attracted to her self confidence and beauty.

    At the beginning of the film, Bathsheba arrives at Norcombe Hill to stay with her aunt and immediately captures the fancy of a sheep farmer called Gabriel Oak (Nathaniel Parker). Gabriel proposes marriage, but she rejects his offer.

    Soon circumstances change drastically for both of them. Gabriel loses all his sheep due to an inexperienced dog, and is forced to sell everything to pay his debts, leaving him with no money. Bathsheba, on the other hand, suddenly finds herself the mistress of Weatherbury farm after inheriting it from her uncle who has recently died.

    Gabriel manages to get a job working for Bathsheba as a shepherd after he saves her farm from a fire. He still has feelings for her, but puts it aside when he realises she is being wooed by a gentleman who runs a neighbouring farm, Mr. Boldwood (Nigel Terry).

    In the meantime, one of Bathsheba's maids, Fanny Robin (Natasha Little) runs away to be with her lover, Sergeant Frank Troy (Jonathan Firth). However, due to a misunderstanding on their marriage day, Troy abandons Fanny but later regrets his decision and goes in search of her.

    On his travels, he meets with Bathsheba and falls in love with her, and she also seems to be attracted to him, much to the displeasure of both Gabriel and Boldwood.

    What will happen next? Who will Bathsheba marry, if at all, and what will the other two men do?

    This production captures much of the spirit of the novel, including the rustic humour and cheerfulness of the workers at the farm, and the beauty of the surrounding countryside.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    We are presented with a full frame transfer, in what is presumably the intended aspect ratio.

    The transfer is somewhat soft. Given the recent age of the mini-series, I would have expected a sharper transfer but I suspect the softness is due to the series being shot using 16mm film.

    Colours are okay, and occasionally strong and vibrant, perhaps even a little too much so, possibly resulting from some colour/contrast enhancements during the transfer.

    Given the length of the feature, it is to be expected that there will be some compression artefacts. The average bitrate is 5.5 Mb/s, although the transfer varies from as low as 3Mb/s to peaks at 9Mb/s. I can detect persistent low level pixelization, some Gibbs effect ringing and shimmering here and there. Fortunately the overall transfer is still watchable.

    Grain is present due to the 16mm source, but fortunately not at annoying levels.

    Unfortunately there are no subtitle tracks.

    This is a single sided dual layered disc (RSDL). The layer occurs in Chapter 12 at 110:12. Although occurring at a scene change, it does result in a noticeable freeze on screen.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is only one audio track: English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192kb/s).

    Even though dialog normalization is set at +4dB, the overall sound track appears to be mastered at a very low level and I had to turn up the volume by +3dB. Even then, some of the dialogue appeared indistinct, possibly due to the rural accent and the fact that occasionally some of the characters mumble. I did not encounter any issues with audio synchronization.

    I was surprised to see a caption for "Dolby Surround" during the opening titles and the film does seem to take some care with positioning of foley effects across the front speakers but also to the surround channels (such as rain, thunderstorm, birds, fire crackling and atmospheric sounds). In addition, the background music ambience is also carried by the surround channels.

    The original music is mainly orchestral, composed by John Keane, and is inoffensive.

    I noticed a few minor audio dropouts and screen freezes here and there, most noticeably at 115:33. The disc surface is slightly blemished, so these could be due to a dirty disc, but be warned, just in case these are mastering errors.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Given the length of the feature, there are no extras on this disc.

Menu

    The menus are full frame and static.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This title has yet to be released in Region 1.

Summary

    Far From The Madding Crowd is a reasonably faithful TV mini series adaptation of the novel by Thomas Hardy.

    The video transfer is soft but acceptable.

    The audio transfer is recorded at a low level but features some usage of the surround channels.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Sunday, November 09, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDCustom HTPC (Asus A7N266-VM, Athlon XP 2400+, 512MB, LiteOn LTD-165S, WinXP, WinDVD5 Platinum), using RGB output
DisplaySony VPL-VW11HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum/AVIA. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE (upgraded)
SpeakersFront and surrounds: B&W CDM7NT, front centre: B&W CDMCNT, surround backs: B&W DM601S2, subwoofer: B&W ASW2500

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