Far from the Madding Crowd

Rated 5.0

Thomas Vinterberg directed half a dozen features, a few TV movies and a handful of music videos in between the time he made his 1998 breakthrough The Celebration and his 2012 “comeback” The Hunt, but he's gained such a stern, quiet confidence since then that his new stuff feels like the work of a changed man. The Hunt was a study in cruel suspicion in which a small-town schoolteacher's life and reputation are destroyed by the innocent lie of a child, and Vinterberg tills similar soil in his adaptation of Thomas Hardy's 1874 serial Far from the Madding Crowd, creating another small-town hothouse where propriety is challenged and everyone exists on the razor's edge of fate. Far from the Madding Crowd is maybe not quite an equal to The Hunt, but it's the more impressive achievement—a beautifully mounted, fiercely intelligent, bracingly alive literary adaptation that remains an unabashed crowd-pleaser. D.B.