7.3/10
13,951
79 user 68 critic

Tess (1979)

A strong-willed young peasant girl attracts the affection of two men.

Director:

Roman Polanski

Writers:

Gérard Brach (screenplay), Roman Polanski (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
Reviews
Popularity
4,455 ( 162)
Won 3 Oscars. Another 13 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
John Collin John Collin ... John Durbeyfield
Tony Church Tony Church ... Parson Tringham
Nastassja Kinski ... Tess (as Nastassia Kinski)
Brigid Erin Bates Brigid Erin Bates ... Girl in meadow
Jeanne Biras Jeanne Biras ... Girl in meadow
Peter Firth ... Angel Clare
John Bett John Bett ... Felix Clare
Tom Chadbon ... Cuthbert Clare
Rosemary Martin Rosemary Martin ... Mrs. Durbeyfield
Geraldine Arzul Geraldine Arzul ... Child
Stephanie Treille Stephanie Treille ... Child
Elodie Warnod Elodie Warnod ... Child
Ben Reeks Ben Reeks ... Child
Jack Stephens Jack Stephens ... Man in Tavern
Leigh Lawson ... Alec d'Urberville
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Storyline

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 Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

She was born into a world where they called it seduction, not rape. What she did would shatter that world forever. She was a poor man's daughter, an aristocrat's mistress and a gentleman's wife. She was Tess, a victim of her own provocative beauty. See more »

Genres:

Drama | Romance

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | France

Language:

English

Release Date:

12 December 1980 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Tess See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$12,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$20,093,330

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$20,101,247
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

(DVD) | (re-issue) | (original)

Sound Mix:

70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)| Dolby (35 mm prints)

Color:

Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

One of numerous writing collaborations of Gérard Brach and Roman Polanski. See more »

Goofs

When Tess and Angel break in to the house when on the run, the mic boom pole is reflected in the door beside the broken glass panel Angel had just forced. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
John Durbeyfield: Good night, t'ee.
Parson Tringham: Good night, Sir John.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The film was first released to German cinemas uncut with a running time of 184 minutes. As the audience reaction was far from overwhelming the distributor decided to re-cut and re-release the film in a more "accessible" 134 minutes version. But at least one of the original prints had survived and was shown here at the local art house years later. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Saturday Night Live: Bill Murray/Delbert McClinton (1981) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Polanski's Period Piece
16 May 2008 | by lotus07See all my reviews

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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