Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1998)

Posted: July 9, 2009 in movie
Tags: , , , , , ,

Thomas Hardy’s immortal tale of love — Tess of the D’Urbervilles — abandoned and virtue lost has been captivating readers for over a century.

And I was more than happy to watch the unforgettable intensity and tenderness of the treasured classic in a lavish adaptation. It was in my degree I first read the novel and later in my post graduation.

Her luminous beauty blazing against the bleak background of rural Victorian England, Tess remains one of literature’s best-loved and most memorable heroines.
Violated by one man and forsaken by another, she refuses to remain a victim. But her struggle to endure despite the abandonment of her true love and her desperate attempt to attain happiness propel Tess toward a tragic end.

Tess (Justine Waddell) is a girl of the working class and learns that her father is the descendant of the noble family, the d’Urbervilles. Her family sends Tess to a rich relative in nearby Tantridge to get money or marry well so that her parents will be taken care of. Her meeting with Alec d’Urberville (Jason Flemyng), one of the relatives, seals her dreadful fate. He is attracted to Tess and seduces her and she returns home ruined. Alec promises to take care of her if she ever needs anything, but she dislikes him so much that she’d rather suffer than have any contact with him.

Soon Tess bears a child she names, Sorrow, and the child dies only days after it is born. Tess leaves home to try at independence again knowing now to be wary of men. She goes to Talbothay’s dairy and falls in love with Angel Clare (Oliver Milburn), the son of a pastor who is learning about farming at the dairy. Although she thinks herself unworthy of such a sweet man because of what happened to her, Tess and Angel fall in love and decide to get married. She refused his proposals for quite a while trying to find a way to tell him about her past with Alec d’Urberville, but she couldn’t do it. Shortly before they are supposed to be married, she writes him a letter and slips it under the door of his room. He never gets the letter because it is stuck under the edge of the carpet. Tess realizes this mistake on the morning of their marriage, and she is not given an opportunity to tell him before they are married.

That night he confesses that he’s had one sexual encounter and she forgives him, knowing that he’ll forgive her what happened with Alec. But when she tells Angel about it, the way he feels about her changes completely. He feels betrayed and tricked, so they agree to separate.

He goes to Brazil to try his hand at farming there, and Tess works at hard job after hard job rather than asking his family for money as he’d instructed her when he left. While she’s working herself to the bone, she encounters Alec d’Urberville again and he begins visiting her, relentlessly trying to convince her to marry him. She finally gives in when her family is evicted from their home after her father’s death and they have nowhere to go. Alec provides them a home, and Tess agrees to be his wife.

Angel returns from Brazil and comes to find her, knowing that he has treated her unfairly. When he finds her, she is distraught that the only man she ever loved has come back, and once again, Alec d’Urberville is standing in her way. She stabs Alec with a knife, and she and Angel spend a week together hiding out and being as they were before they were married. Then Tess is captured and executed. (Later Angel marries her younger sister, Liza Lu, which the movie didn’t show.)

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