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Kristin Scott Thomas,
Wessex County, England during the Victorian era. Christian values dominate what are social mores. These mores and her interactions with two men play a large part in what happens in the young life of peasant girl, the shy, innocent, proper yet proud Tess Durbeyfield. The first of these men is Alec d'Urberville. After learning from a local historian that they are really descendants of the aristocratic d'Urberville family which has died out due to lack of male heirs, Tess' parents send her to a nearby mansion where they know some d'Urbervilles actually reside. This move is in order for the family to gain some benefit from their heritage. Upon her arrival at the mansion, Tess quickly learns that the family of Tess' "cousin" Alec are not true d'Urbervilles, but rather an opportunistic lot who bought the family name in order to improve their own standing in life. Tess is pulled between what she was sent to accomplish for her family against her general disdain for Alec, who will give her ... Written by
Polanski's 'Tess' is rich with images and poetry. To start with, the director really does make use of the countryside and life in the country during the late 1800s. Those themes are presented as characters themselves. And, coupled with the fitting score it gives a feel of what the time may have been like. Along with some fine cinematography, many of the shots linger on the beautiful and yet sad countryside.
The pacing is exceptionally well maintained. 'Tess' is longer than the traditional 100 minute flick but not for a moment does it feel as though it's lagging or dragging in pace.
Another strength of the film is its subtlety. For example, to the director's credit, there's an outstanding sequence of how murder is implied just with a few drops of blood. Even the finally sequence (beautifully done) implies Tess's fate (before the epilogue clarifies it). 'Tess' touches on some heavy themes such as sexism, poverty and betrayal but it doesn't preach about them. Rather it tells the story of a strong-willed, devoted and kind woman who was faulted for being beautiful.
Moreover, the characters are brilliantly layered. The screenplay has safely avoided caricatures). A very young Nastassja Kinski is incredible in one of her early roles. Her restrained performance and gestural expressions are remarkable. Peter Firth does a fine job too. They are supported by very good performers.
This is easily one of Polanski's finest: his most subtle and poetic films. A treat to watch.
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