Jude the Obscure is Thomas Hardy's last novel and his most controversial. It's not his best work, personal favourite is Far From the Madding Crowd followed by Tess of the D'Urbevilles, and while the one of his books that can translate most successfully as a play- of the book it is perhaps the most character-driven- it is also his least accessible, mainly because the themes and the depressing nature. It is however still a very powerful and vividly written book, especially the sixth part, that wasn't deserving of the negative press it got, though you can also understand why. People who've not read the book will find this adaptation and the Christopher Eccleston film depressing in tone, the thing is though the book is depressing as well as well as very ahead of its time, it is a very truthful story but the truth here is very unpleasant and Hardy presents it very bluntly.
As an adaptation, while not completely faithful in detail this mini-series is the easy winner, it does capture the spirit and themes of the book better than the film version. On their own, both have many great things and pack a real emotional wallop but again this gets the edge. The production values and atmosphere are very meticulous and give a good idea of what it was like living in Hardy's time as well keeping with the unpleasantly honest nature of the storytelling. Hardy's writing is vivid and specifically descriptive and the adaptation does well in respecting that. The photography is unobtrusive and not too stage-bound, though it definitely could have been sharper.
The music has a very haunting tone to it, while the dialogue is very literate and you can hear Hardy's prose and way of words coming out and the story is as you'd expect dramatic and powerful. The last hour is both harrowing(the children's deaths is enough to have your heart in your mouth) and heart-wrenching(Jude is one of those characters that you sympathise with every step of the way). The acting from Robert Powell is some of the best he has ever done, a very moving performance. Fiona Walker is very beautiful and initially charming though eventually with a darker, more sinister side, a change from the more sympathetic female characters like Tess and readers who have read Tess many times before and have been introduced to Jude for the first time may be shocked by this. Alex Marshall is a coarsely sensual Arabella, and John Franklyn-Robbins is very good also.
Overall, a fine mini-series with lots of drama and emotional power. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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