A mute woman along with her young daughter, and her prized piano, are sent to 1850s New Zealand for an arranged marriage to a wealthy landowner, and she's soon lusted after by a local worker on the plantation.
A film is being made of a story, set in 19th century England, about Charles, a biologist who's engaged to be married, but who falls in love with outcast Sarah, whose melancholy makes her ... See full summary »
In the Victorian period, a rural clergyman tells John Durbeyfield, a simple farmer, that he is descended from the illustrious d'Urberville family -- now extinct. Or maybe not. Durbeyfield sends his daughter Tess to check on a family named d'Uberville living in a manor house less than a day's carriage ride away. Alec d'Urberville is delighted to meet his beautiful "cousin" and seduces her with strawberries and roses. Actually, Alec has gotten his illustrious name and coat of arms by purchasing them. Tess also takes up the game of illusion when she finds, loses and finds again her true love Angel Claire. Written by
Dale O'Connor <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This has been my favourite movie since I first saw it in the late 1980s, and I have viewed it probably once a year since that time. My videotape copy was fading and failing, so I was lucky to replace it recently with the Japanese DVD version.
When you compare it to other films made in 1979, it is amazing how little it has "aged". Of course, it is an historical drama, with a "timeless" setting. And yet the cinematography is so assuredly wonderful that the movie is almost as if set in amber.
Many have commented on the score, and it is a pity that this is no longer in issue. Still, there seem to be enough people like myself who are fans of this film, perhaps there is enough of an interest?
While the A and E version was an above-average production, I think Polanski's beats it on almost any characteristic. Polanski's film is a series of tableaux, very few of which do not work well. (One that I find a little bit stupid is the scene where Tess sleeps out in the forest and the deer comes to visit her. Gimme a break!). There are many scenes which, if left in still, look like 19th century portraiture, a la Mary Cassatt or Edgar Degas. The scene where the pedlar comes across Tess at the Crescent Hand! This guy has just stepped out of another century. This is a stunningly visual movie, and perhaps the reason it is so easy to watch time and time again. The dialogue, too, full of the cadences of West Country speech (still there, but disappearing) are an evocation of a lost age. These are hinted at in the scenes showing the modernization of England (the train bringing the milk to market, the threshing machine) which is changing their lives. Tess, and her aristocratic background, are an anachronism, particularly compared with the worldly (and successful) Stokes.
I enjoy the rhythm of the movie, which is rural and slow. Time is marked in slow and languid drips, such as we see with the milk at the dairy farm, and finally with the blood at the boarding house. This is classic story-telling, replete with foreshadowing (particularly Tess' temper and pride). What I enjoyed most is the symmetry of the story-telling, which make it more myth-like, particularly the juxtaposition of the two opening and closing scenes (the dancing of the village girls at sunset, and Stonehenge--which legend has as a circle of giants dancing and frozen by Merlin--at daybreak). Other examples are Alec Durberville's "saving" Tess from a fight with her "rival" and Angel choosing Tess over her rivals on the flooded road.
As you can see, Tess is a movie that replays itself in my mind. Polanski's effort reflects on what I think is one of the greatest 19th century English novels (in my mind, rivaled only by "Middlemarch"), and is a great springboard to further consideration of art and life.
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