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Posts Tagged ‘Tess of D’ubervilles’

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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Recommended: ☆☆☆☆

This is my first Hardy and it won’t be my last! This guy can seriously write; his description of the Wessex landscapes and settings is absolutely beautiful. He has such a way of describing the most tender emotions, whether it be the more obvious feelings such as passion or the harder ones to describe such as confusion or frustration, at varying levels of intensity. But I must prepare you; there is something in long descriptions of farming life, where you will learn more than you ever want to know about milking cows, threshing wheat, and slicing turnips!

Since Hardy is notorious for putting his characters through terrible fate; I already knew this is no fairy tale. But I have never been so angry with the characters in a book! So, Tess is this poor, wonderful, trusting, and hardworking farm girl, who is scarcely past girlhood. She is beautiful, gorgeous in fact. Her stupid irresponsible parents sent her to the home of a d’Urbevilles, thought to be relatives, to claim her connection and potentially get some money or perhaps employment. She meets her sleazy so-call cousin, Alec, who has a thing for pretty ladies and tries to win her affection. This guy creeps me out; I can feel the hair on my skin stand up whenever he’s present in the book! Oh, how I cringed when he feeds her a strawberry from his hand and tries to kiss her. He is ruthless, claiming her for himself from the moment he lays eyes on her. He stalks her and takes advantage of her. But she never actually says ‘no’ and even after the ‘incident’ she never outright resented it and continues to live with him for ‘a little while’. Her silent suffering throughout the book drove me a bit crazy. When she finally meets Mr. Perfect, Angel, she gets all wishy-washy: “Oh, I love him, but Oh, I cannot marry him, Oh, how I am no good, but Oh, I will marry him anyway, so I can never tell him the truth, so he’ll never know my past.” She is torn between her strong love for Angel and fear of losing him. I adore Angel at the beginning; he says the tenderest and sweetest things to her and his unwavering wish to marry her, got me hoping this ‘Angel’ (he plays the harp too) will rescue her, but there is no such happy twist!  His feeling about Tess changes completely when she tells him everything after their marriage; he abandons Tess. Then comes stalker Alec circling back to her! Talk about rotten luck with rotten men!  Angel really did wrong Tess–when he eventually realizes this, it comes too late.  Indeed, beauty does have its price. She is ultimately crushed under the weight of the world and her society.

This story is hard to take. It’s unfair. It exudes injustice from beginning to end. I didn’t know who to blame really–Alec, Angel, her parents, Tess herself, society??

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