Having all the strengths and excesses of a middlebrow film (visual beauty, lush soundtrack, arty direction), this adaptation's appeal to the senses leaves them cloyed. Although true enough to Thomas Hardy's novel to become a useful aid to 'O' and 'A' levels, Polanski omits small but vital details (such as the initial cause of Tess' guilt, which does much to explain her ensuing acquiescence), and misuses those he includes (the landscape, in Hardy both a part of and a mirror to the protagonists, is relegated to a pastoral backcloth, and was furthermore filmed in Brittany and Normandy instead of Dorset), thus removing substance from this hollow film. Finally, Tess tells one rather more about its director's much publicised preoccupations than about Hardy's themes.
Cast and crew
Gérard Brach, Roman Polanski, John Brownjohn
Nastassja Kinski Leigh Lawson Peter Firth John Collin Richard Pearson John Bett