Posts Tagged ‘Roman Polanski’

Recommended: ☆☆☆☆

Run Time: 190 minutes, Genre:  Period Drama

This film is shot mostly in France because big time director, Roman Polanski, fled to France when he was charged for raping a 13 year-old girl in 1978. To add insult to injury, the first movie he directed as a fugitive was ‘Tess’, the story of a young girl seduced by an older man. Polanski cast 17 year-old Nastassja Kinski (one of his collection of Lolitas) to play Tess Durberfield. They met when she was 15-years old and he started a relationship with her. How ironic or sad that the actress is also being taken advantage of — just like her character! He tells everyone the movie is dedicated to his dead wife Sharon Tate, who was murdered in 1969 by the Manson Clan. Aww.

Tess 1979 Alec d'Urberville

Leigh Lawson’s performance as Alec d’Urbervilles is right-on. He’s the creep I’ve imagined when I read Hardy’s novel, complete with Victorian mustache and fancy suits. Hardy never reveals the specific details that would enable us to decide for ourselves whether Tess is a willing participant or a victim of rape. This version doesn’t make Tess an out-right victim because she stays to live with Alec for a little while as his mistress. Tess realizes she feels no love for him and decides to flee from the d’Urberville mansion. The death of Prince is completely left out, which is what made Tess agree with her parents’ plan that she claim kin. Her guilt over the loss of the family horse is crucial foreshadowing in the plot! The part when con artist Alec becomes a preacher is left out as well. Kinski is exotic looking and supermodel gorgeous–no wonder Polanski couldn’t keep his hands off her! Her portrayal of Tess is a shy and gentle creature, never raising her voice and never complaining. Some of her lines are spoken so softly you have to hit the volume button just to make sure you can hear her dialogue! She has very little dialogue for a film that runs three hours. But she is lovely to watch; she has a way of showing her pain and emotions being restrained. Compared to the other versions, this Tess is the best dressed. 

Peter Firth as Angel Clare is a bit disappointing for me, though his performance is a strong one. He just didn’t come off as charming as the character in the book. I think Oliver Milburne (1998 version) is much more attractive as Angel! 🙂 

The film’s cinematography is pure art! Pretty much each frame in the movie oozes sadness and beauty and is set up so naturally mesmerizing, without using any fancy tricks. The details are astonishing: the lush costumes, the sprawling countryside, fox hunt emerging from the mist, the languid dripping of milk, and even the elf-like man appearing on the road–all came gloriously to life as if leaping off the pages of the book.

As beautiful as this movie is, mundane scenes seem to drag on, while some major scenes move too quickly. I think it is weird how quiet it is throughout the film when they have this amazing music score. If you haven’t read the novel, the movie may be a bit confusing and awkward because it jumps ahead in time without much explanation. I personally love this adaptation.


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