The Mayor of Casterbridge (TV Movie 2003) Poster

(2003 TV Movie)

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sammy12 August 2004
Ok, I admit that although I like period dramas, and enjoy Thomas Hardy's novels, the sole reason I rented this film was James Purefoy. I expected to spend a couple of hours "enjoying the scenery" as it were, but not much more. What I got instead was a heart-breaking tale, powerfully delivered by an all-round excellent cast.

Michael Henchard is a very complex character, delivered masterfully by Ciaran Hinds. At times you loathe him, in the next scene he will break your heart. The impression that the pain this man is feeling is real, is at times so strong that I must confess to the occasional tear. I do not often get emotional when watching a film, but this was certainly an exception. Definitely not "light" entertainment, this is one to be watched when you are willing to give yourself over to the story, not to watch out of the corner of your eye while catching up on your e-mail...

As for James Purefoy...? What can I say? He delivered a performance above even what I expected. The barn scene in one that will haunt my dreams from this day forth!

Watch it! You won't be disappointed.
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A must see for Victorian period drama fans
George Parker26 December 2004
Ciarán Hinds delivers a stunning performance as "The Mayor of Casterbridge", a poor agrarian man who, in a drunken state, sells his wife and child then swears off alcohol for 21 years only to find himself mayor of a village and embroiled in a confounding series of relationships for which he is ill equipped to handle. A fine TV flick adapted from a Thomas Hardy novel, "The Mayor...." fleshes out an enigmatic hard made man who struggles to reconcile a series of personal failures with his rigid code of right and wrong. A pleasant though somewhat depressing change from the usual Victorian dramas of pomp and plenty, "The Mayor..." is well worth a look for anyone into films of the period. (A)

Note - The DVD I watched had no CC's nor subtitles which made for a difficult time understanding some of the very thick brogues and burrs.
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DVD far superior to A&E
oshelley557 September 2003
I bought the DVD of "The Mayor of Casterbridge." The film on the DVD is far superior to what A&E aired in August 2003. There are numerous important scenes that were completely eliminated and other vital portions of scenes edited out in what A&E aired. I was really frustrated with the film I saw on A&E; I liked the film on the DVD. While I would have loved this to be even longer, as is the older Alan Bates BBC version, and I still have some problems with it (the ending feels slightly rushed, for example, and some of the stagings seem too pedestrian), its generally a well acted and told story. I recommend the DVD. I definately do not recommend watching this on A&E, if they air it again in the same form as previously.
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Brilliant presentation of complex character in the M.o.Casterbridge
Uta-Lenkewitz4 June 2006
Fifty years ago my teachers strongly recommended to read the "Mayor of Casterbridge" by Thomas Hardy for a study of English. Somehow I never "found the time", though in the meantime I saw the film, read the novel and loved the story of "Far from the madding crowd" by the same author. Having at last watched the two-part DVD-version of Michael Henchard's fate I seem to have won a new part of the world for my horizon ! Ciaran Hinds with all his power represents the rise and fall of a complex character whom you must love, pity and despair of, all in the same moment. Such characters do exist, Thomas Hardy knows how to describe them, and the actor seems to have learned every word about them by heart. Luckily his four main partners stand up bravely against this standard. The wonderful picturesque town of "Casterbridge" and the carefully chosen landscape give adequate room to unfold the figures. Strangely enough the fact that this is a tragedy adds to its reality. After watching the film twice I seem to have found in its hero a very valuable new acquaintance. So my teachers were right after all...
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Beautiful and Sad.
averageandproudofit2 June 2006

I just finished watching this film on DVD. Words cannot praise this production enough. I have not read Hardy's novel yet, but if it's merely half as good in writing as this was on film it is bound to become one of my favorite books of all time. Wonderful scenery, top-notch acting by everyone involved (Ciarán Hinds delivers a bravado performance here), a beautiful and captivating score, and one of the most touching and heart-rending, yet uncheesy plots ever.

I must admit I had some reservations after seeing Polanski's "Tess" which I thought was a bit of a bore, feeling that maybe Hardy doesn't translate to well to the screen. But this "Mayor", despite its running time of just over three hours, got me so involved emotionally that I found myself not only glued to the screen, but I even cried a couple of times.

Simply beautiful.
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Kieran Wright30 December 2003
Surprise surprise, yet another world-class performance from Mr Ciaran Hinds. When is this guy going to be on 20 million a movie? Come on directors, give this guy the break he so richly deserves. Solid performances all round and compulsive viewing. Credits also for the set pieces etc and direction and pace.
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Excellent adaption of a great book
Steve Shovlar29 December 2003
Warning: Spoilers
I have just watched the two part adaption of this Thomas Hardy classic novel on TV in the UK and thought it very good indeed. Living in the very area where the film was made and written, I certainly connected with the story and its surroundings. In fact, I was in Casterbridge (Hardy's name for Dorchester) only today!

Spoilers. The acting was top notch for a TV movie, with all the leads putting in fine performances. As with many of Hardy's works, it ended very sadly indeed, with the final demise of Henchard and tears from my wife.

It was difficult not to feel real pity to Henchard. He was a drunk made good, only to loose everything through petty jealousy.

I thought the fines performances came from Jodhi May, a fine young actress destined for greater things.Her performance as Elizabeth Jane was quite excellent, and the dispair on her face throughout the film was very real.

8.5 out of 10
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Can't understand how this show can be rated this high
helge_iversen27 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
OK - the acting is actually good. The atmosphere is good. In fact, this should have been a good mini-series, when it is not. The story is full of flaws, clichés, stereotypes, predictable events (such as Mr. Henchard getting drunk exactly 21 years after his oath of not drinking alcohol for 21 years), and unnatural jumps making the story incoherent at times. I haven't read anything by Thomas Hardy, so I don't know if this is his fault, or the fault of the scriptwriter or the director. The story simply strikes me as not credible. The story jumps way too fast at times, causing me to laugh in stead of believing in it. Perhaps the best example is when Donald Farfrae meets Lucetta Templeman for the first time. He is madly in love with Elisabeth Jane and has been for a long time (this has been decently made clear for us for some time already). Within five seconds he has forgotten all about Elisabeth Jane and is completely mesmerized by Lucetta Templeman - and this is portrayed in a way that is simply not believable. They hardly speak or do anything other than a two minutes chit chat, and all of a sudden they have thoughts for nothing but each other, ending the scene practically married. I laughed and shook my head. Also the characters are all dull and either not truly portrayed at all, or portrayed as stereotypes. All except for Michael Henchard, the only character that is truly interesting in this story. As for the dialog I simply can't ignore the late meeting of Michael Henchard and Abel Whittle. Henchard having been his former boss, and a bad one. I can't remember it word by word, but it goes something like this: "How is it, working for Mr. Farfrae", Henchard says. "Oh, it's good. He's not beating me the way you did," Whittle answers, not in a matter of irony. And they are both smiling and almost laughing. What's this? It'simply not believable. The story is full of that. Then again - the acting is good, the atmosphere is nice, and there are enough elements in here to make a really good story. Yet somewhere it all goes wrong. It's simply not coherent. Sorry to say so, cause I wanted to like this one.
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Loved this one!
us8869-116 September 2005
The other night I woke up at 4am and could not sleep. So, of course, I turned on the TV. This movie was playing on A&E. I enjoyed it so much I set my timer to record it for the next 2 series. I only watched them after my husband feel asleep as it is a highly romantic movie and it seemed more of an intimate movie experience for me to watch them by myself. I especially enjoyed the relationships Mary Jane had with Mr. Farrier and the Mayor. What caught my attention the first night I was channel surfing was the Superb acting! All of the characters are believable. I'd like to see the actress who plays Mary Jane in some more movies. The actor who played the Mayor was excellent also. I just wish there were more movies out there like this one. Danielle in CA
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Simply fantastic
TheLittleSongbird3 August 2012
I haven't been familiar with Thomas Hardy's work for long, in fact my first exposure was Jude the Obscure for GCSEs only four years ago. Since then he has struck me as a truly wonderful author, I find his characters complex and his writing highly thoughtful and atmospheric. The Mayor of Casterbridge does show Hardy fully deserving of this reputation, the story is bleak but beautiful and fascinating also. And this is a fantastic version of it, not quite as good as the 1978 series but just as great. The costumes and settings are evocative and stunning to look at and the photography is very skillful. What also stuck out was the atmosphere, perfectly capturing the story's bleakness but also managing to be genuinely authentic. The music is both beautiful and haunting and never overbearing, the story held my attention for the whole duration and was very moving and the writing is literate and thoughtful, sticking faithfully to the basic spirit of the prose. Ciaran Hinds, whether you dislike or feel pity for Henchard, which is numerous times on both counts, is nevertheless the complete embodiment of this complex role, much like Alan Bates before him. Of the solid support cast, Juliet Aubrey's sympathetic Susan and James Purefoy's startling Farfrae stood out in particular. Jodhi May also convinces in Elizabeth-Jane's despair. Overall, this is a fantastic adaptation and version of a fine book. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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An Amazing Story
ladykannie9 August 2007
THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE was the first classic novel I ever read, and was, I believe, the reason for my adoration of them. So, it was with some trepidation that I approached this film, knowing how badly destroyed some book to movie plots can get, and having grown up only knowing miniseries as something not so great.

I was thankfully very wrong. The movie was written just as though the novel were played out before your eyes. The characters were perfectly cast, the most minute detail noted (note how Susan Henchard looks pretty at certain angles, and plain the rest of the time). There were no major diversions from the plot, and only a few small details left out.

Over all, this did justice to a great novel, and while it is not for everyone, it is a must see for any Hardy fan.
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A "Maybe" See for Fans of Victorian Novels
gelman@attglobal.net23 November 2008
No doubt that the Mayor of Casterbridge has a strong cast, headed by Ciaran Hinds (who had an important role in "There Will be Blood"). Hinds, as Michael Henchard, the mayor, is ably seconded by Juliet Aubrey as Susan Henchard, the wife he sold for five pounds during a drunken spree; Jodhi May as Elizabeth Jane, Susan's daughter; James Purefoy as Donald Farfrae who becomes the manager of Henchard's grain brokerage and subsequently his rival, and Polly Walker as Lucetta Templeman, Henchard's one-time lover and later Farfrae's wife.

As a two-episode TV drama, the Mayor of Casterbridge is on screen for over three hours. I can't help feeling that it would have been more effective if cut by a third. Although the emotional ebbs and flows are at the heart of Hardy's novel, they do not translate easily to the screen and director David Thatcher appears to have dealt with that difficulty primarily by letting Henchard's mercurial temper dominate and determine the action.

Susan Henchard, the abandoned wife who returns, and Lucetta, the abandoned lover who comes to prefer Farfrae to Henchard and is thereupon exposed to merciless ridicule and persecution by disclosure of the love letters she wrote to Henchard are sympathetic but tragic figures, but the leisurely exposition of their tales robs their tragedies of their full import. In the end, this is -- above all -- Henchard's story and a better choice might have been to concentrate on that instead of trying to put the entire novel on view.

By all means, see it. But be prepared for intermittent irrelevancies.
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Hardy? Har-Har
Fenrir-523 August 2003
Perhaps the task of bringing a Thomas Hardy novel to the screen is far too daunting for there to ever be great success. While "The Mayor of Casterbridge" is much less faulty than the popularized, stinkbomb screen version of "Jude", it still isn't a very good film.

I say this as a tremendous fan of the book. "Jude the Obscure" has many elements that make it more attractive to the adolescent reader: namely angst, angst, and more angst. But "The Mayor of Casterbridge" is simply a great novel. The characters are well-realized, the story involved, and there is even a moral to be learned. However, in converting the story to a screenplay, most of the power of the novel is lost.

The most obvious problem is the look of the movie. It is entirely off. Everyone is wearing shiny new clothes, the tents at the fair are brilliant white. People were just really dirty back then. None of this is conveyed in the film - everything looks like a set. I understand they were working with a small budget, but dirt is free.

If one looks at the production as a filmed play, the lack of credible atmosphere can be forgiven. But then there are the chainsaw-quality cuts to the story. Why does Henchard like Farfrae? We see a small scene where it is hinted that Farfrae saves his wheat. But this is no reason for them to become fast friends. Why does Henchard become embittered by Farfrae? In the book there are several instances where Farfrae seems to upstage Henchard. The movie shows only one, and a rather weak one at that. Suddenly Henchard wants to destroy Farfrae, and the character change doesn't seem reasonable.

Many of the scenes are drained of their power by the lackluster and low-quality direction and editing. The camera is mostly static, giving the story little power. I don't need MTV cuts but there is something to be said for moving the camera occasionally. There is no concept of time passing. Even a simple trick like showing a title card that says "one year later" could have helped this. Instead it's all piled together, with all the actors obviously the same age, and great leaps made in the story and relationships.

But most crippling is the way the editor does not allow many powerful scenes to play out. For example, when Henchard has died and his will is being read (in a classy voiceover), after the final word the scene just cuts to black. No slow fade, no pan to the sky, no swell of music. It's just over.

Perhaps this is the result of a longer movie being cut down to fit into a TV timeslot. But I doubt that, because the movie was originally made for television.

While it is certainly not the worst way to spend one's time, much greater satisfaction can be had by reading the book. It is a much better story through that medium.
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this film is great!
alexcook_15 October 2006
this is film is really good. its ultimately about the horror of true human nature but it is very beautifully done! i haven't actually read the book but i obviously don't need to as the film is so excellent! its a bit sad but well worth a watch. and i must say that ciaran hinds is amazing! this film is yet another example of his pure genius!! he always manages to make a role his own and has a truly unique acting style. its a shame he doesn't play the lead more often, he always seems to be in the background somewhat which is a shame as he is really good! this film along with Rome has to be one of his best performances! so if you haven't seen this film, i truly recommend it but have a box of tissues ready!!!
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Excellent character study, visually outstanding
vgs189520 April 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is an excellent adaptation of Thomas Hardy. Needless to say, it is not uplifting, but the character studies are outstanding. This was well cast and well-acted. It seems to be a high-class production all around (should I expect less from A&E?). For Thomas Hardy fans, this should be very appreciated. For Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte fans expecting a happy ending, avoid this production. Ciarin Hinds, as usual, turns in another great performance and is a pleasure to watch. Jodhi May as Elizabeth Jane captures her well. Be sure to look for Jean Marsh ("Upstairs, Downstairs") as an old, wizened woman. James Purefoy as Farfrae plays it perfectly. The quality of the production is up to A&E's usual standards.
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A very interesting, intriguing and sad tale of human nature.
Jakeroo17 August 2003
Thomas Hardy's study of human nature and all its failings are amply explored in this story of Michael Henchard who sees life from the top and from the bottom and finally ends up as a broken man despising himself completely. It is a classic look at how good and evil co-exist in some people to a remarkable degree.
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Excellent production of perfect novel
dannouk30 December 2003
The ITV1 Christmas 2003 showing of this production in the UK was sensitive and thoughtful, with two separate 2 hour long episodes meaning the production really had time to show its colours and the story time to develop. Performances, staging and screenplay were all excellent getting as close to doing a Hardy story justice as I have ever seen. Truly brilliant. 4 million well spent in bringing Hardy to a new audience. Only question is, with the production complete at the beginning of 2001, why did it take so long to reach us....
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A little rushed, but brilliant.
drew_graham118 August 2003
Thomas Hardy is an indisputable literary genius. Why I never thought to read the Mayor of Casterbridge is beyond me. I imagine I always found his lead heroines more intriguing than his title heroes (Tess, Eustacia from the Return of the Native, Bathsheba from Far From the Madding Crowd, etc.). I saw this A&E production tonight and found that, despite the ads that ran too often and too many, this story is not only captivating but heartbreaking, as we've come to expect from Hardy.

This film involves a complex plot only Hardy could provide. The title character is a well-respected, wealthy mayor of a prosperous town and the owner of a granary. When Michael Henchard's past mistakes and associations return to haunt him years later, he, his long-lost wife and daughter, his one-time lover and a young man who finds himself involved with all become intertwined in a tragic, moving, but somehow uplifting story.

Stellar acting make this film work, even if it does seem rushed at times, and the story sometimes seems crammed in its time frame. While Ciaran Hinds in the lead sort of bugs and scares me, in the end, my mom and I both found ourselved in tears at his plight and the ending. Thomas Hardy's stories often seem hopeless and Godless, but nevertheless lead to careful examination of human nature and society.

A thought-provoking, tragic (traditional of Hardyist stories), emotionally intense ride, The Mayor of Casterbridge is one of those rare gems of television.

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Bleak Story & Over Acted
VReviews13 August 2010
Perhaps I simply don't appreciate Thomas Hardy's plot lines, but as a fan of 19th century classic British literature productions I find Hardy's "Mayor of Casterbridge" bleak without break and lacking sophistication in character that so defines Austen, Gaskell, Dickens and Carroll.

It could be that the A&E production and screenplay written by Ted Whitehead failed to capture the essence of Hardy's words. However, the bottom line is that this adaptation is oddly paced, and largely overacted. Jodhi May, who was outstanding in Daniel Deronda just previous to this production, was miss cast as Elizabeth-Jane. Her heaving breath, hunched shoulders, and facial expressions are overly dramatic and irritate throughout. One scene that did show how good it might have been, takes place in Part I between Henchard and Donald Farfrae when Henchard confides the haunting truth of his sin against his wife and child. Unfortunately in the end, there just isn't enough good to make this production compelling enough beyond filler until something better arrives.
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