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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
I just viewed the DVD edition of TESS; I loved the Commentaries. TESS is a stunningly beautiful work of art. Thank God for the talent, vision and perseverance of Roman Polanski, his cast, crew and backers.
Given Polanski's celebrated appetite for young girls, I was not surprised that he portrayed the swinish Alex Stokes/D'Urberville in an almost sympathetic light. 17 Year-old Natassia Kinski is imbued with a luminous, almost unearthly beauty, even in the darkest of scenes. No wonder Polanski couldn't keep his hands off her. This film offers us a glance back in time to a long-gone pastoral life and the parochial intolerance of its people and their leaders. All faced the changes wrought by the juggernaut Industrial Revolution.
Long ago, while still in college, I was influenced against Hardy by W. Somerset Maugham's petulant, whining novel, CAKES AND ALE, with its veiled references to Hardy as a pedestrian writer with little artistic merit. Was I surprised when, in 1962, I got around to reading TESS! I was struck by its narrative and descriptive power and its still relevant social commentary. TESS filled me with outrage over the injustice meted out to a spirited, yet simple farm girl, whose main fault was being too beautiful. Following that enlightenment, I read just about everything Hardy has written.
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