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Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1998)


Tragic Story of an English Rose

On the day of the May dance, Tess' father discovers he is a lineal descendant of the D'Urbervilles. While he celebrates his good fortune, his daughter dances in her creamy dress with her friends wearing lace shawls and bonnets. There is a sense of peace and happiness in a secluded part of the world. A place you never imagine could foster such exquisite pain.

Tess (Justine Waddell) seems reticent and reluctant. She is torn between her responsibility to her family and finding her own happiness. In harsh times, she chooses to try her best at finding support for her family.

In her reluctance, she casts a mysterious spell about herself and this seems to make her irresistible. Riding alone with a handsome man in a mysterious forest seems a fantasy at first. Then, when she draws the wrong man to her inner circle and he takes her by force, we doubt she will be able to love again. Once her mother releases her into this wolf's forest, she is never safe again. His love is damaging to her in all the worst ways.

Not only does she become pregnant, her child dies and she must now carry this secret with her to her grave or be shunned by men who are more understanding of their own lusts, than of her forced submission after only a casual dalliance. Since she doesn't love Alec (Jason Flemying), she decides not to marry him. Although, if she did marry him, she could have lived in a beautiful Victorian mansion complete with wood floors and ferns in planters on pedestals. She is offered wealth again and again.

I love this movie for so many reason. Not only can you escape to the English countryside, there are beautiful scenes of family life by fireplaces and country life on farms. Milk sloshes in wooden buckets and milkmaids are still innocent enough to cry when kissed.

Just when we think Tess is safe, she falls in love with Angel Clare (Oliver Milburn). He sees her as a goddess, perhaps Demeter. Little does he know how true his words are, as Demeter was the goddess of fertility and was also raped. They played with this idea throughout the movie in subtle ways. Tess is seen holding grain, she is very fertile and she is raped. Through Tess' experiences with suffering and grief, she learns to empathize with others and eventually almost sacrifices her body for the love of her family.

Then, her past comes back to haunt her in the worst ways. This is tragedy at its best, if there is such an idea. I loved this adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel. However, I kept waiting for scenes I'd thought I'd seen before. Then, I realized I had mistaken this movie for Roman Polanski's 1980 adaptation. Both movies are excellent and will keep your attention right to the last second. Now I have a good excuse to watch "Tess." If you love comparing adaptations, it is well worth the extra time.

Incredible acting, gorgeous scenery and a tragedy with so much irony and drama, you can't believe anyone could have luck this bad. Or was it just decisions the actors made in the direction of their own tragic ends? Should Tess have followed her heart to begin with and would that have made all the difference? Should you really tell your lover all your faults on your wedding night? This movie is not only stunning in its beauty, it also makes you think on a deeper level about a number of situations and how you would deal with them if you were Tess.

One of the most compelling tragedies I've ever seen and I'm happy to say I enjoyed this adaptation as much as the 1980 version of TESS . Both are almost three hours in length. Not really movies you just watch on a whim.

Movie Food: Strawberries!


White Chocolate Fondue


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