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In the late 19th century, Tess Durbeyfield is sent off to visit a rich cousin, Alec D'Urberville, when her parents learn that they are distantly related. Tess takes a disliking to the man and his attempts at seduction are rebuffed. Returning from a village party he forces himself on the innocent girl who eventually makes her way back to her parents' home. Ashamed and pregnant she seems destined to forever being marked a certain kind of woman. After the death of her child, she makes her way to a prosperous farm where, working as a milkmaid, she meets and eventually marries the handsome Angel Clare. On learning of her past however, he abandons her and with little choice and facing a life of extreme hardship, again falls into Alec's clutches and becomes a kept woman.Written by
There are two musical anachronisms. First, Angel plays an autoharp which was not invented until the 1880s in Germany, and would not have been an English folk instrument at the time of TESS. Secondly, the congregation is heard singing "How Great Thou Art," which was written in Swedish in 1885, but was not commonly known in English until Stuart Hine's translation (circa 1950). See more »
This is the first BBC dramatisation of this wonderful novel by Thomas Hardy, which I have read several times. I first knew it from the Roman Polanski film which has a different approach to casting - Tess was played by Nastassja Kinski who was more obviously sexual in her appearance, and Angel Clare was Peter Firth, who to me had more charisma than Eddie Redmayne. I loved that film and it was very upsetting to watch, when I was in my teens. Now I'm older and wiser, but Tess's story is so tragic that it still has enormous sadness. I felt that the protagonists in this version were more believable as young people living in a rural community, but the romance between Tess and Angel was not very convincing. Angel was well represented as a weak man who makes bad decisions, but he could have been more attractive, to persuade me that all the milkmaids were in love with him. So on the whole, although the story was told in faithful detail and well done, it didn't excite me in the way I expected. I always have sympathy for Tess as a character - whether or not she was technically raped is open to interpretation, but the main facts are that she was an innocent girl who was preyed upon by one man and let down by another. However, to be a tragic heroine, she possesses character flaws that allow her to succumb to the events that overcome her. It is a sad story that has relevance still, and it is a good introduction for viewers who have never read the wonderful book.
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