Sunday, 10 April 2011

Review: BBC film adaptation of Tess Of The D'Urbivilles by Thomas Hardy

Last week, I reviewed Tess Of The D'Urbivilles by Thomas Hardy and recently watched the BBC film adaptation of the book. So I wanted to share my thoughts on the screen version, even though this is technically a book review blog.

Description from DVD:

A passionate, sensual and very modern version of Thomas Hardy's infamous novel, combining young, upcoming acting talent with recognisable and much-loved faces. When the beautiful and innocent Tess Durbeyfield is driven by family poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D'Urbervilles and seek a portion of their family fortune, meeting the manipulative Alec proves to be her downfall. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer her love and salvation, but Tess must choose whether to reveal her past or remain silent... Whilst unstintingly gorgeous and romantic, this new adaptation is an intense, moving and provocative depiction of the tragically beautiful story.

My thoughts:

I liked Tess's story when I read the book but I *love* it now I've watched the film because it bought Thomas Hardy's writing to life vividly in a way that I couldn't visualise clearly in my head because I sometimes found the writing hard going. You know a film is a fantastic adaption when it has the power to do that! The BBC have stayed faithful to the book and everything about it is just beautiful from the casting and acting to the setting.

Gemma Atherton portrays Tess perfectly with her dark beauty and her acting is just so emotionally touching, which is why I connected with her so well. From the first scene, I knew that she was just right for Tess because she captures her naive at first but determined and strong personality well and was just as imagined her. She could have played Tess as a frail and tragic girl who is resigned to her own fate as in other adaptions but I think her character is much more appealing played the way it is here. At first I wasn't too sure about the casting for Angel (played by Eddie Redmayne) because he wasn't how I imagined him but I grew to see how he fitted his character later on. I liked the casting for Alec too, Tess's cruel seducer because he had an almost alluring and seductive quality to his looks but a harsher, darker side too.

Hardy's writing full of grim scenes could easily have made this film dark and dingy but instead, it is the opposite. The first scene is sunny and light with the Tess and the other girls in her village dancing on a hilltop with a rolling expanse of countryside around them.and I really liked how this was done. Yet there are lots of darker scenes in the film when it is appropriate and they contrasted well together.

The Durbeyfield family
I'm really glad that the BBC decided to stick as close to the original as possible using many of Hardy's original lines because if there was much deviation from the book, I didn't notice it so it can't have been very big. This is rare in adaptions in classics and a real treat.

I have never been one to cry at books and films but I'm surprised to say that the ending of this left me with tears rolling down my cheeks because it was so moving and poignant even though I already knew the ending. I was watching it on my portable DVD player just before settling to sleep and it kept me awake for a long time! In the book, I wasn't really emotionally effected but it had a big impact on me in the film.

As you can probably tell, I loved this tragic and utterly romantic screen adaption and it made me want to read the book straight away again. If you've read and enjoyed Tess Of The D'Urbivilles or even if it's a classic that you keep meaning to read, you NEED to watch this! Just make sure you have a big box of tissues at hand!

The trailer


  1. I thought that Eddie Redmayne was super-cute but he always looks a bit ill doesn't he? I have to wonder how he picked her up as well - she's got to be at least two of three stone heavier than him! I didn't like that he turned into a bit of an ass later on, I didn't think that that was something his character would do...

  2. I haven't read the book, but I'm really liking that cast. I think I'm going to see if I can get a copy. Thanks!

  3. Those screencaps are you know if we can get it from the LRC?
    I really want to see this too...

  4. I saw this quite some time back and loved it. And OMG the ending! I really need to get myself a copy of the book to read.



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