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starring Wes Bentley, Milla Jovovich, Nastassia Kinski, Peter Mullan
screenplay by Frank Cottrell Boyce
directed by Michael Winterbottom
by Walter Chaw Cold and barren as the winter's landscape it inhabits, Michael Winterbottom's exceptional retelling of Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge is the delicate and maddening The Claim. It's told in undertones and sidelong glances, gathering its strength from the inexorable tides of fate and the offhand caprices of nature that reflect the essential chaos at the centre of every man's character. Hardy stated about The Mayor of Casterbridge that "it is not improbabilities of incident but improbabilities of character that matter," and the subtitle of the novel is, consequently, "A Man of Character." Though it's possible to take the subtitle as ironic seeing as the titular main character is guilty in the first chapter (an incident related in the film as a flashback) of an act that is at the very least heinous, both novel and film are earnest in exploring the sticky gradations of morality without value judgment.