The Mayor Of Casterbridge


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The combination of emotional diversity in Thomas Hardy's novel seems ingenious and without restraint. What further revelation can tear at the heartstrings? Is love forever unrequited/betrayed/laid bare? Will jealousy destroy the qualities of a good man?

Adaptations made for television have the advantage of spacial depth. A huge book, such as this, covering 25 years, is best represented by four hours of exemplary filmmaking, rather than squeezed into 90 minutes of screen time. The performances are strong and the script by Ted Whitehead boned and lean.

Michael Henchard (Ciaran Hinds), an itinerant farm worker in the West country, sells his wife Susan (Juliet Aubrey) and baby Elisabeth Jane at a county fair in a moment of drunken rage. Nineteen year later, he has become a wealthy grain merchant in the town of Casterbridge, as well as its mayor.

After the sailor (Clice Russell) who bought Susan is lost at sea, she and Elisabeth Jane (Jodhi May) come to Casterbridge to find work. Of course, the mayor hears of it and the story leaps into life.

Also, very much involved is a clear-headed Border Scot, by the name of Donald Farfrae (James Purefoy), who has been persuaded to stay in the town and manage Henchard's business. Being an honourable and handsome young man, he finds himself embroiled in amorous assignations, not entirely of his making, and transactions of a financial nature that he would never have instigated alone.

Director David Thacker leads Hardy's characters through a gamut of desperate events and yet retains the audience's sympathy through the conviction and commitment of the actors, particularly May, who is outstanding.

Reconstruction of 19th century rural life is beautifully handled and, in the heady athmosphere of high class soap opera, why go to Middlemarch when you can stay in Casterbridge and suffer passion beyond endurance?

Reviewed on: 21 Jan 2004
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Adaptation of the Thomas Hardy classic about a man who sells his wife.
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Director: David Thacker

Writer: Ted Whitehead, based on the novel by Thomas Hardy

Starring: Ciaran Hinds, Juliet Aubrey, Jodhi May, James Purefoy, Polly Walker, Jean Marsh, Clive Russell, David Bradley

Year: 2003

Runtime: 240 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: UK/US


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