Tess Review

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A rural clergyman in 19th century England tells Durbeyfield, a simple farmer, that he is descended from the illustrious d'Urberville family -- now extinct. Or maybe not. Durbeyfield sends his daughter Tess to check on a family named d'Uberville living in a manor house less than a day's carriage ride away. Alec d'Urberville is delighted to meet his beautiful "cousin" and seduces her with strawberries and roses. Actually Alec has gotten his illustrious name and coat of arms by purchasing them. Tes


A lengthy, lyrical adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel, 17 years on this might find fresh favour in today’s crowded costume drama market. Rakish Leigh Lawson deflowers Nastassia Kinski, who wanders into the arms of Angel Clare (Peter Firth), and is spurned because of her blemished past. As a study of Victorian sexuality, Tess is left wanting, with Polanski, unable to film in England, relocating Hardy’s Wessex to France, a move which included rebuilding Stonehenge for a striking climax. But the main problem is the director’s determination to remain faithful to the novel, which accounts for the ponderous pace — half an hour trimmed would have heightened the impact considerably.

Insufferably long, but very good in parts.