Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Overlooked DVD of the month - THE WOODLANDERS

THE WOODLANDERS is a beautifully acted and produced adaptation of the Thomas Hardy novel. The plot is deceptively simple. Mr Melbury is an ambitious timber merchant who hopes to raise up his beautiful daughter Grace by education and a good marriage. To that end, he breaks off her childhood engagement to a simple cider-maker, Giles Winterbourne, and marries her off to the charming local doctor, Fitzpiers. Fitzpiers soon becomes ashamed of his in-laws' low society and has an affair with the seductive Mrs Charmond, leaving Grace to regret her former love for Giles. The story ends in a typically Hardy-esque fateful and sombre mood, reminiscent of James Joyce's THE DEAD.

Cal Macaninch is suitably attractive and cold as Fitzpiers and Rufus Sewell smoulders honourably at a distance. Emily Woof beautifully catches the innocence of Grace Melbury and her confused status between humble Woodlander and society woman. But there is a quite chilling scene where this naive girl gives her husband to his mistress, willing Mrs Charmond (Polly Walker) to feel as wretched as she does. But the real star of the film is the romantically shot woodland itself. Ashley Rowe, who shot the recent hit
HOT FUZZ, successfully evokes both the beauty and the twisted claustrophobia of that world.

THE WOODLANDERS was released ten years ago and is now available on DVD and through Channel 4's new video on demand service.

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