Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
France/United Kingdom, 1979. Renn Productions, Timothy Burrill Productions, Société Française de Production. Screenplay by Gerard Brach, Roman Polanski, John Brownjohn, based on the novel Tess Of The d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. Cinematography by Ghislain Cloquet, Geoffrey Unsworth. Produced by Claude Berri. Music by Philippe Sarde. Production Design by Pierre Guffroy. Costume Design by Anthony Powell. Film Editing by Alastair McIntyre, Tom Priestley. Academy Awards 1979. Boston Film Critics Awards 1980. Golden Globe Awards 1979. National Board of Review Awards 1980. New York Film Critics Awards 1980.
No one needs to see another period film where an innocent peasant girl is screwed over by a rakish aristocrat, yet somehow Roman Polanski’s direction contributes to a highly absorbing, totally mesmerizing film whose beauty is matched by its intelligence. Nastassja Kinski is fantastic as the young woman whose father discovers that their name is actually descended from an old line of English blue-bloods, and gets her into the manor of distant relatives (who turn out to be unrelated to them) on the basis of this information. There, she is thrown in the way of a rogue (Leigh Lawson) who does wrong by her and throws her life into a completely new direction marked by romance and tragedy. Every frame looks like a painting come to life, but it’s not just pretty; this film has emotional resonance to spare, and the audience is hooked to its heroine’s destiny in a deep way.