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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
Director of Photography Geoffrey Unsworth died of a heart attack during the third week of shooting at the end of October 1978. Most of the film's scenes shot by him were exteriors in the first half of the movie and can be noticed by some fog and slight diffusion. Ghislain Cloquet shot the second half and the remaining of the movie with most of his scenes in interiors with no diffusion. Rumor has that among the scenes shot by Unsworth before his death were:
1) The foggy day-to-night seduction in the woods
2) The tent and the strawberries when Tess is in the D'Uberville mansion.
I saw Tess as a teenager and the images and emotions have lingered with me ever since. I remembered Natasia Kinski as Tess being tempted with a strawberry by her cad of a cousin, the subtlety of showing a murder by just having the tiniest spot of blood appear on the ceiling below, the powerful poetry of the final scene at Stonehenge... I have just watched the film again and it was even better than I remembered. I will go to my grave being in love with Kinski in this role! I had forgotten also what a perfect performance Peter Firth gives as Angel Clair, and the apparent authenticity of life in rural Victorian England. Perhaps what is most extraordinary is the leisurely pace at which the story is told. Shots linger on the countryside after characters have said their lines and moved off. many sequences exist entirely to build up to a single glance or gesture. Altogether Tess is a superb lesson in story telling and one of the truly great movies of all
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