A strong-willed peasant girl in Victorian era England attracts the attention of two men while her life crumbles due to their advances.
Directed by Roman Polanski
Written by Gérard Brach, Roman Polanski, John Brownjohn
Starring Nastassja Kinski, Peter Firth, Leigh Lawson, Carolyn Pickles, Suzanna Hamilton, John Collin, Rosemary Martin
Based on the novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
Oscar Wins - Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction,
Best Costume Design
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Director,
Best Original Score (Philippe Sarde)
Tess was made as a love letter to Roman Polanski's late wife Sharon Tate, who loved the Thomas Hardy novel and knew that one day, her husband would make a terrific movie out of it. Though she never got to see the film, she was absolutely right. Tess is a period film masterpiece that takes the audience through the life of Tess Durbeyfield, a beautiful peasant girl whose life is thoroughly destroyed by two men, one she despised and one she loved more than anything. It's a tragic love story with very few uplifting moments, but your eyes will be glued to the screen from beginning to end thanks to the flawless performance of Nastassja Kinski.
Tess (Kinski) is sent to the d'Urberville family after her father learns they may share kinship with them. There, she becomes the obsession of Alec d'Urberville (Leigh Lawson), a true bastard who rapes her and fathers a child out of wedlock with her, destroying her chance of marrying above her station and having a peaceful life. When the child dies, Tess is devastated but tries to move on, but when she falls in love with Angel Clare (Peter Firth) and marries him, her sins come back to haunt her and her misfortune drives Angel away. Now, with nothing and no one, Tess tries to live her life but some force out in the universe seems to be keeping her from happiness. It's a very depressing film that keeps your interest throughout its intimidating runtime.
Tess is one of Polanski's best films and remains fairly unknown to this day, despite an Oscar nomination for Best Picture in 1980. It's not for everyone, but it's a phenomenal story that deserves to be seen for the performances, the cinematography, and the viciously uncompromising story.