At a country fair, young hay-trusser Michael Henchard quarrels with his wife Susan, and in a drunken fit decides to auction off his wife and baby to a sailor for five guineas. The next day,...
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At a country fair, young hay-trusser Michael Henchard quarrels with his wife Susan, and in a drunken fit decides to auction off his wife and baby to a sailor for five guineas. The next day, realizing his loss, he swears not to touch liquor again for as many years as he has lived so far. Eighteen years later, Henchard has become Mayor of Casterbridge, a man well respected but not well liked. The unexpected return of his wife and daughter Elizabeth Jane sets off a turn of events that force him to face the consequences of his selfish impulses and violent temper.Written by
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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