This is not my favorite Thomas Hardy novel, but it’s hard to deny the appeal of Ciarán Hinds as the alternately idiotic and stubborn and then remorseful but still proud and stubborn titular character in The Mayor of Casterbridge (2003).
The story begins with an already archaic notion of a man — Michael Henchard (Hinds) — selling off his wife and infant daughter in a drunken fit. Years pass and he’s cleaned up his act, renounced booze, and become an upstanding citizen, a prosperous businessman, and the mayor. His former wife, Susan, comes back as the man who purchased her and became her “husband” has died. To make up for things, Henchard marries her again and “adopts” his now-grown daughter, Elizabeth-Jane (Jodhi May). Of course, Henchard had been planning to marry another woman who he’d had an affair with (yeah, guess he hadn’t cleaned up his act too much). That lady, Lucetta Templeman (Polly Walker) comes to town after she gains an inheritance and makes life uncomfortable for Henchard. Plus, Henchard has an energetic employee, Donald Farfrae (James Purefoy) who soon overtakes him in the business. Several love stories overlap, fortunes rise and fall, and ultimately, Henchard dies alone and relatively unloved because of his many mistakes. It’s not a happy tale, but it is just in a way.
The acting is beautiful throughout, which is a good thing because the costumes are rather snoozy. No specific date is noted in the three-part miniseries. The novel was published in 1886, but no bustle gowns are in view. Instead, the gowns look rather 1840s-1850s-ish, aka our reviled death of fashion period complete with derpy bonnets. So you know this is an excellent production if I watched and enjoyed it in spite of the sad frocks!
Have you seen this adaption of The Mayor of Casterbridge? Is Ciarán Hinds or James Purefoy your fave? Do bonnets make you gag?