Posts Tagged ‘Victorian novels’

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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Recommended: ☆☆☆☆☆

 This is where my crush on Jane Austen began. There’s just something in her writing that every time I read it, I want to tucked myself in a blanket with a cup of hot tea and munch on French cookies. It’s a feel good book and when things get stressful, I revert to Jane Austen. I love her distinct writing style, witty dialogue, and articulate language.  The story isn’t all that complex, but the language is architected such that the reader can understand the characters’ emotions. She’s funny too! Her ability particularly in mocking the rituals of manners, politeness, empty admiration, false modesties, and social class of Victorian society is so delightfully amusing. Back in the day, class is everything! A man’s identity is valued by his wealth and women just have to look pretty and trap a wealthy man. Some of the characters are cruel and judgmental towards others but proud of themselves. After reading this book, I feel more observant of others.

It’s not an easy read at first, but once you get use to Austen’s language, her pace of storytelling, and the mindless twaddle along the way, you become immersed in their lifestyle and how Darcy and Lizzy’s characters evolve within the story. Wit against wit, his pride against her prejudice, their slow-burning chemistry each grew into a sizzling point (don’t act like I gave the plot away there; we all know how it ends). I like Lizzy’s spunk- her playfulness, wit, and intelligence made her an interesting character. In a time when money and society were considered more important than love and happiness, she believes that one cannot marry without affection. But she is also a contradiction. While she hates snobbery she exhibits the very same behavior she rejects in others. Eventually Lizzy  learns that she should give people a second chance, that we’re not all as we seem. My favorite character however is Mr. Darcy. At first Mr. Darcy does seem like a snob; he’s very wealthy, quiet, and he does look down on others. His fortune made him bearable by most to talk to, though his pride and seemingly apathetic nature was the disdain of many. But in reality, he is genuine, kind, and compassionate. He later realizes that he shouldn’t be a snob because the girl he really loves, which is Elizabeth, is the girl that’s without fortune or status. He realizes that even people that aren’t in his class status are worth knowing. Elizabeth, being snubbed by Mr. Darcy at the first party, became prejudiced against Mr. Darcy and her prejudice prevented her to try to get to know him. It also was the belief then that society could not tolerate a relationship such as theirs. Austen shows us the courage it takes to stay true to ourselves, how we risk everything and gain everything. Finding true love with whom you least expected is the reason I think their love story is so wonderfully charming. It’s the best fairytale, this filthy rich man falls in love with you and he turns out to be perfect and everything you really wanted. Doesn’t everyone need a Mr. Darcy?

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Recommended: ☆☆☆☆☆

I indulge myself in dramatic, gothic-novels. Often they are a bit oddball and silly, but this is a remarkable piece. This is where the whole party started; if gothic romance has footsteps, they’d lead you back here.

Now why did my high school teacher assigned us to read Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre when her sister has written this masterpiece? I wish I read this book sooner! Wuthering Heights is way better and way more interesting. If I didn’t know they were sisters, I would have never guessed by simply reading their novels. They have quite different writing styles and themes. What glorious of a writer Emily Brontë was! Her use of atmosphere, natural settings, and mood of people is so poetic, unique, and powerful. I never felt such sadness that the author had only written one book! Unlike her sister Charlotte who created a likeable strong character in Jane Eyre, Emily had no fear to create in Wuthering Heights a cast of characters that are almost impossible to like. This book proves you can like a book without liking any of its characters.  

Emily’s characters are darkly wild people, with twisted desires and savage minds, living in the middle of nowhere on the haunting moors with miserable weather. They are some of the most strongly-drawn characters in literature and the level of passionate intensity in them, I think, has not yet been equaled. I love the way the story was told. I felt like I was Mr. Lockwood wrapped in a blanket with the moors in view and the howling winds at the window with Nelly keeping me company by telling me this sickly fascinating story. From the very first, to the very last page, you’re enshrouded in the turmoil of their wretched lives: seduction, revenge, missing person, people dropping like flies, murdered puppies, digging up old lover’s grave, kidnap, moors, roars…it makes you wonder what crazy shit had Brontë been smoking? And goddamn do I love it. But read Wuthering Heights slowly, read it at night, and be prepared to enter a world more vivid, more intense than any other put into writing.

I’m not sure how I got this idea, but I always thought Wuthering Heights is an angel-playing-harp love story. The book cover is adorned with two people embracing Gone with the Wind-style on the windy moors. But Catherine and Heathcliff’s love story is not a happy one. Such that, some people won’t connect them to “romance”, though it is practically seeped into every page of this book. It’s not in the way romanticism is viewed generally. It’s a truthful story of power, wealth, corrupted passion, and romantic souls. The story masks the author’s intense feelings and unorthodox attitudes towards the sophisticated Victorian society.

Heathcliff is, frankly, a crook of the worst sort but he is sometimes romanticized as a victim. I cannot outline here all of the evil things he did over the course of the story without giving too much away. He’s an asshole, a stalker, and a sociopath–and he knows it! As he says of Isabella, the girl he marries and beats up:

“She abandoned them under a delusion…picturing in me a hero of romance, and expecting unlimited indulgences from my chivalrous devotion. I can hardly regard her in the light of a rational creature, so obstinately has she persisted in forming a fabulous notion of my character, and acting on the false impression she has cherished.”

Hear that, Heathcliff fangirls? Even he thinks you’re all morons for liking him. Now, I can’t say I hate him because part of me do sympathize with his adversity and can understand why he is so obsessed and why his obsession led to a hardness and a madness of mind and morals. Heck, I even shed a tear after Catherine died just because Heathcliff wished himself to be haunted by her.

“Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you!… I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!”

That is love, my dears. But do I need that kind of passion? Hell no. Imagine your parents’ reactions when you bring home a Heathcliff or a Mr. Rochester? Seriously, the Bronte sisters have bad taste in men! Catherine, the one that Heathcliff lives and dies for, ruins everyone’s lives for, she doesn’t get my sympathy. She’s a spoiled, selfish, and an unfeeling bitch every moment she was present in the story. She is in deep love with the poor boy Heathcliff, but she flirts with a wealthy boy Edgar, whose social status satisfies her unexpressed need for external acceptance. She wants her cake and eats it too!

Hate them? Understandable, I suppose. I came to the conclusion that you really weren’t intended to like either Catherine or Heathcliff because I feel their story is not the love story we are supposed to champion and idolize. Even if they would end up together they would tear each other apart anyway. But at the end there is a sliver of hope, a touch of something pure, a love which is unsoiled. And this, I believe, is the true romance of the book. Cathy Jr and Hareton’s relationship (second generation) is the one we should all applaud and secretly yearn for as they endured and persevered where Catherine and Heathcliff crumbled.

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