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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
SYNOPSIS A poor girl in late 1800s England is used and abused in her search for love, affection and devotion.
CONCEPT IN RELATION TO THE VIEWER True love is an allusive thing and the rules and morals of an upper class society makes some men into real jerks. Sometimes following your heart can be a difficult road with a lot of dead ends and pitfalls.
PROS AND CONS I watched this film back in college when it first came out. I was a fan of Roman Polanski's work and this was his first film after 'Chinatown', which is one of my all time favorites. I recall that this was a long (almost 3 hours) film that was very slow and beautifully shot. Since I was more interested in car chases and explosion in my youth, I didn't recall this as being a very good film.
Since age tempers a lot of our youthful interests, the second viewing of this film was a much different experience. This is a slow film but it has to be. Life was much methodical and personal in the rural countryside of Victorian England. The script and acting are very intimate and you really get to know the characters as the story unfolds on the screen. The subtle tone of this film is amazing and the level of detail actually makes you believe you are in 1890s England.
The two lead characters played by Nastassja Kinski (Tess) and Peter Firth (Angel) do an exceptional job. Kinski's character is extremely shy and withdrawn. Firth is also engaging in his subtle portrayal of a preachers son trying to find the meaning of life. It is obvious from watching the film that Polanski was infatuated with Nastassja Kinski. He lingers on her in many shots and for good reason. She portrays the perfect heroine, virginal, pure and very beautiful.
The cinematography in this film is even more beautiful the second time around. The surreal scene of a fox hunt emerging from the mist in front of Tess as she walks down a deserted country road is mesmerizing on several levels. The end scene at Stonehenge with the rising sun casting long shadows as the final credits roll is truly breathtaking. There are countless other scenes like this that give the film and almost dreamlike quality.
In the end the viewer feel sorry for Tess as she is led away. She is more a victim of circumstance and the callousness of others than of her own doing. But the world of rural Victorian England was not a nice place, especially if you were poor, naive and very beautiful.
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