January 31, 2013
I recently read Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy several weeks ago, and finally had the chance to watch the miniseries that aired in 2008. The book made me cry and I loved it. It is such an amazing but sad story. The cast features Gemma Arterton as Tess Durbeyfield, Hans Matheson (The Tudors) as Alec D’Urbeville, and Eddie Redmayne (Pillars of the Earth) as Angel Clare. I cried SOOO hard at the end! My god, it was SOO sad!
Gemma Arterton as Tess Durbeyfield – Tess is the innocent but spirited protagonist of the story and the eldest daughter of a poor, rural Victorian family. She is sensitive, loyal and kind and tries to do the best for her loved ones. A “fine and handsome girl”, Tess easily attracts the attention of admirers but her life is tragically undone by their misdeeds and misjudgements.
Arterton said, “I was attracted to the role because stripped down, it’s such a basic story about love and missed opportunities, everyone can relate to it. It’s also just brilliant, brilliant storytelling.” She perceives Tess as “a straightforward country girl, very pretty, but unaware of her beauty. Although people chip away at her life, she grows stronger, which is the incredible thing about her.”
Hans Matheson as Alec D’Urbeville – Alec is the self-centered and manipulative eldest son of Tess’ supposed illustrious relatives, the D’Urbervilles. After going to work at The Slopes – Alec’s family home – Tess falls into his clutches. He is the “tragic mischief” and she is easily seduced by his apparent charm and generosity.
Matheson observed that “Although Alec’s actions are extreme, they’re unconscious. So you have to understand him as a human being, as well as a villain.” He also found the story “about the countryside… [about] spring and the seasons and the descriptions of love” and found it surprising how few cinematic versions there were of the tale, because “the novel is so filmic.”
Eddie Redmayne as Angel Clare – Angel is an intelligent and kind clergyman’s son. Tess first sees him at a Mayday dance but he ignores her. Choosing to follow a life in farming rather than one in the Church, he wants to work for the “honour and glory of man”. Tess meets him again at a farm where she’s working as a milkmaid and they fall deeply in love.
Redmayne heaped praise on the novel and the character of Tess, acknowledging that “Hardy had the boldness to create a character with great strength at that time, which I think is what makes her so enduring and relevant today”.
I thought this was a wonderful adaption of the novel. The character of Alec D’Urbeville is complicated. I mean, I find myself WANTING to hate him for what he did to Tess, but I really think he cared for her, at least as much as he was capable of, at any rate. If you get a chance to see this, I would. Wonderful but very haunting story.
At times I almost dream, I too have spent a life the sages' way,
And tread once more familiar paths. Perchance I perished in an arrogant self-reliance
Ages ago; and in that act, a prayer For one more chance went up so earnest, so
Instinct with better light let in by death, That life was blotted out—not so completely
But scattered wrecks enough of it remain Dim memories as now, when once more seems The goal in sight again. -- Robert Browning, Paracelsus
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