Saturday, June 1, 2013

Tess of the D'Urbervilles: A Review

 All right. How exactly should I begin this? Well, I shall do my best.

    Before I watched this movie, I really had no idea what it was about, or any inkling as to the nature of the story. I had heard the name before, and being the period drama admirers that we are, my dear sister Sadie and I decided we would like to see it. Justine Waddell has been a mutual favourite actress of ours since we saw her in Wives and Daughters and Great Expectations, and we are always like to watch a new period drama, so we decided to watch it and see if it was any good.

  Heh. It wasn't.

  But anyway, Sadie and I have decided to write a review of the movie together, to share our opinions on it and to warn y'all to NEVER watch it, as it is pure torture and extremely unsettling to one's well-being. All right, I admit I am exaggerating a little, but trust us. It's pretty awful.  If you've ever seen Tess of the D'Urbervilles, it is most likely that you share our sentiments on the subject. If you haven't seen Tess of the D'Urbervilles and you still want to without knowing how bad it actually is- and in that case I may have to disagree with your logic- you may not want to read on, because this review is simply studded with spoilers.
   (Note: this movie isn't very popular- I wonder why?- and so Google images doesn't really have very much to offer, hence the reason why there are so few pictures in this post. The other reason being that most of it isn't very pleasant anyway.)

   This is pretty much how the story goes:

    Tess Durbeyfield lives with her two disagreeable parents and numerous younger siblings in rural Victorian England. When she is sixteen, a man tells her father that they are related to the famous D'Urberville family, and Tess is sent away to work at a relatives' house, where she meets a cousin named Alec D'Urberville, who is the creepiest man alive and immediately takes an interest in the beautiful young Tess. She doesn't like him- duh- and his attentions are unwelcome. (I suppose you can guess where the direction of the story is heading- let us just say that when Tess leaves to go back home soon after, she is pregnant, but from no fault of her own.) When she returns home, a lot of time is skipped and she is next shown with her baby, who soon becomes very sick. Tess knows that her baby is going to die, and she pleads with her father to let the parson come and christen him before he dies, but her horrible father won't permit it and so Tess christens the baby herself in the middle of the night, naming him Sorrow. He is dead by morning, at which point the viewer determines that this is the worst movie they have ever seen, and pretty soon Tess leaves again to work as a milkmaid at a farm. There she meets a young man named Angel Clare, who falls in love with her, and although she comes very close several times, she doesn't tell him about her past and after a while they get married. On their wedding night, Mr. Clare tells her that he has a a confession to make, that several years ago when he was in London he spent two days and two nights with another woman, and Tess forgives him and then tells him of her tragic past. (This is the part where you almost turn it off and end your misery, but for some reason you just can't.) Even though Tess has forgiven him for a sin that was entirely his fault, he won't forgive her for what happened beyond her control, and they part the next day, leaving Tess miserable (as well she should be!). She doesn't go home after that, but she begins to work in the fields with a former milkmaid, doing terrible dirty work, and four years go by. Then she meets up with Alec D'Urbeville again and he bothers her into telling him what happened about the baby, which he never knew about, and she tells him to never come near her again. He continues to bother her, though, and tells her that her mother is not well, so she goes home to find that her mother is perfectly fine, but then her father dies suddenly- yeah, well, good riddance- and her family has to leave their home. Then Mr. Clare comes back and asks her mother where Tess is, and although she is reluctant to tell him, she finally tells him where he can find her. Mr. Clare goes to hotel where her finds Tess, who (gasp!) is now married to Alec D'Urberville. Tess tells him that he is too late and he leaves, and then she goes and tells her husband and he tells her that he is not a D'Urberville after all but that his family just adopted the name, and she kills him with a butter knife (?), and then flees the hotel before anyone finds out. She finds Mr. Clare and tells him that Alec D'Urberville is dead, and they leave the city for the country and spend a night in an old vacant mansion. They leave the mansion the next morning and spend the next night at Stonehenge, and in the morning the police comes and arrests Tess, she walks off into the sunrise with them, and it says that she is later hanged for murder. The end.

 And we all thought Jane Eyre had it bad.


                                                   Tess Durbeyfield

   Emma: Well, Justine Waddell is one of my very favourite actresses, and I was not disappointed with her performance in this movie. The character, however, was a bit of work. At first, when she was younger, she seemed a very nice girl and a dutiful daughter to her parents. When she went to work for her relatives and met Alec D'Urberville, it was clear that she didn't like him and that she was uncomfortable by his attentions, but I suppose since she was so young she didn't really know what to do about it. Then, after her baby died, she became more bitter, and understandably so, but then for a while she seemed to get a little better, especially while she was at the farm. For most of the movie, I liked the character of Tess, but then after she killed Alec she seemed to have gone somewhat insane, and from that point on it was like she was constantly frightened and unstable, and she constantly needed reassurance from Mr. Clare: "Do you love me, Angel?" "Yes". "You will never leave me?" "No".  For the last twenty minutes or so of the movie she seemed a completely different character than before: she had seemed such a strong character before, and now she was terribly weak. So I suppose I didn't think the character very well developed- and even though I was not expecting a happy ending for her, I was still kind of mad that it ended the way it did.
   Sadie: I'm not really sure what to think of Tess. At first she was nice enough, especially considering all the bad things that happened to her. She seemed to be becoming a stronger character as the movie progressed. But then somewhere in the middle of the awful thing she just started to go downhill. I applauded her (not literally) for not accepting that snake of a man, Alec D'Urberville, and I do admit I was surprised to find that she had actually married him. She seemed so set on not having anything to do with him, as well she should've been. Then when Angel actually came back and it was too late, I hardly blamed her for being somewhat overcome with grief. But she lost all sense from that point on. The old Tess would never have behaved the way that she did. I was pretty much just waiting to see how horrid the ending would be, and it didn't disappoint. So at first she was a nice girl, but then she kind of lost her mind.

                                                       Alec D'Urberville
                                There will be no pictures of Alec D'Urberville on this blog. :P         

Emma: Ugh, he was the creepiest man ever! And we all thought John Thorpe was bad. Alec was not only a terrible character and disrespectful to Tess, but he was actually really scary and he was one of those villains you just wish would die and never see again. He is definitely right up there with Rigaud as far as nastiest villains go. Some villains are actually amusing and not all that bad, but Alec D'Urberville was every bit THAT bad. He wouldn't leave poor Tess alone, and he didn't seem truly sorry for the misery he had caused her- all he cared about was himself. I utterly loathed him, and I was horrified to learn that Tess had finally married him, after it seemed she would do anything to get rid of him. I won't say that I was glad she killed him- because that was what really made her final descent into madness, and plus it was murder, which is never a good thing- but I was glad that he was gone, in a sense, because as I said before, he was absolutely horrible and terribly frightening, and I was just glad to be rid of him.
Sadie: If there's anyone I hate, loathe, despise, and abominate it's Alec D'Urberville! I was ready to throw a rock at the screen. It seemed that he was absolutely determined to ruin Tess's life. He did love Tess, but he was so terribly selfish that he didn't even care if she was miserable or not. Overall, he was horrible and I hated him.

                                                                 Angel Clare

Emma: First of all, I will say that I think it is absolutely ridiculous that his name is Angel. I don't know what it is about Thomas Hardy and weird names- like "Angel" and "Fancy"- just another thing for me to dislike about him. (We're not very good friends, by the way.) To be quite frank, I thought Angel Clare was a complete wuss. He told Tess he loved her and that she was the most perfect woman he had ever met and blah blah blah, but then when he found out about her past and that- surprise!- she was just a human like everyone else, he didn't really want anything to do with her, even though she had forgiven him for what he had done which, I might add, was his fault, while Tess was not to blame for what happened to her. I suppose at first he seemed a nice enough man, and he was kind to Tess while they were at the farm before they were married, but then after they were married and the truth was out, he acted like a complete wuss about it and wanted to be rid of Tess. However, the fact that he came back four years later showed that he had some good in him, but when Tess came and told him that she had killed Alec he was just like, "Oh, okay, well, let's go before anyone finds out." She had murdered a man! Somebody was going to find out! Actually, I thought the ending was just plain ludicrous, but then, I wasn't expecting a "good" ending either. So in general, I thought Angel Clare was quite a weak character, with few values and little conscience.
Sadie: I think Angel was weak, and a bit selfish. At first he seemed like such a nice young fellow, and he loved Tess very much. In fact, he seemed to love her so much that I admit I was quite surprised when he didn't forgive her when she told him her sectret. He had a secret too, and she forgave him! It seemed incredibly unfeeling of him to treat her so badly. When he came back for her, he seemed like he had matured a bit, and I felt very bad for both of them. I think he was extremely shocked when she said that she had killed her husband, and he had every reason to be! She had lost her sense! I think maybe he thought that if she didn't get caught  by the police, then she would eventually recover and be herself again. But that sure didn't happen! I guess I kind of felt bad for him.

Other Characters:

Emma: Well, there weren't a whole lot of other characters besides Tess, Alec and Angel. Tess's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Durbeyfield, weren't very nice characters: her father was kind of irresponsible and not a good provider for his family, and her mother wasn't very loving and kind of acted like what happened with Alec D'Urberville was Tess's fault. She also made Tess promise not to tell Angel about it, even though Tess told her she would feel like she was living a lie, which really wasn't the right thing to do. So in short, I didn't like her parents. Her numerous siblings were very insignificant to the story and didn't have many lines at all, but I liked Abraham, her little brother who was with her when the horse was killed. He seemed very sweet, and goodness knows none of the other characters were! The milkmaids at the farm provided some much needed humor, and probably the funniest part of the movie was when Mr. Clare carried Marian across the river. Most of the people at the farm seemed pretty agreeable, which was a relief. Other than that, there were no other characters.
Sadie: There weren't very many other characters. Her father was. . .well. . .awful. I'm not sure he was completely sane. I suppose her mother wasn't all that bad. She did care about Tess, but she seemed to be pretty hard on her. We didn't really get to know her younger siblings at all. When she was on the farm, the other milkmaids were quite nice, but very silly. I really didn't mind them being silly, actually; that was the most light-hearted part of the movie. Those were the only characters we really got to know at all.

Tess christening her child, Sorrow.

Emma: The costumes were mostly pretty bleak, like everything else about the movie, but Tess had a few pretty dresses. In the first scene where Tess is shown dancing with some of the other girls in the village, they are all wearing white dresses which are simple but pretty. Her other dresses are very dreary, but near the end when she leaves with Angel she wears a beautiful blue dress, and her wedding dress is also very pretty. I thought Alec D'Urberville's clothes seemed a bit inaccurate to the time period, because they seemed more 1890's, but maybe that was just me. I'm actually not even sure what the exact era was, so maybe I ought to shut up about inaccuracies. :P As for Angel Clare, he dressed like Roger Hamley. : ) That was the best thing about him! There were a lot of shawls and head scarves and bonnets and such, all of which looked incredibly dirty, but that was probably because they lived in the country. They were by no means some of the best costumes I've ever seen, but I wouldn't say they were the worst either.
Sadie: The costumes weren't really anything special, but I don't think there's such a thing as costumes from that era that are unnattractive. Most of the movie Tess was poor, but while she was married she had some very pretty dresses. The men's customes were nothing to scream about, but they were alright. I wouldn't criticize the costume desighner, because they obviously didn't have much to work with. So overall, I've seen better, but they weren't bad.

Tess's wedding dress


Emma: Extremely bleak! Most of the story takes place in the rural countryside, which you would think would be pretty, but it wasn't-  it was very gloomy. I'm not even really sure why it seemed so gloomy, since the sun was shining for most of the first half of the movie, but then when things got REALLY bad, the sun left and it was dark and dreary. So besides having  a horrible story, it's not a very visually pleasant movie either. Go figure. (I'm not very positive, am I?) :P
Sadie: Sun was something we saw very little of throughout the film. Most of it was dreary, dark, and despondent. It wasn't really pretty at all, except for a few tolerable scenes.


Emma: was alright, I suppose, but kind of boring since there was really only one main theme, which in itself was nothing to scream about. So I will say that it was....okay, which is not saying a whole lot.
Sadie: I always pay a lot of attention to the music, and this wasn't that great. I'm not familiar with the composer, and I can kind of see why. The theme was pretty, I'll give it that. But other than that I didn't really notice the music, which means it was really, really, really boring.

This was the gorgeous blue dress, although you can't really see it. The hat was pretty too.

The ending:
Emma: *Cough* Hehe. Well, to say it was awful would be an understatement, but it's not as though we were expecting a decent ending or anything. From the time Mr. Clare came to the hotel where Tess and you-know-who were staying, things went downhill fast. I mean, really fast. The "I've killed him, Angel" scene was just plain weird, but then it only got weirder. It was kind of disappointing that Tess lost her mind because she had formerly been such a strong character, but not too disappointing because, as I have probably said many times, you could tell even from early on that it was obviously going to have a HORRIBLE ending. Actually, my sisters and I couldn't help laughing at the end when the police found them and she walked off into the sunrise: it was just so awful it was downright funny. :P
Sadie: I knew it was going to end horribly. I just knew it. With the way things were going, how could the ending have been anything less than atrocious? We were actually laughing at the end, because it was just so weird! How can this be a classic?! And poor Angel, she went and got herself hanged!

Just plain weird.

 Emma: Overall, it was simply deadful. Definitely one of the worst period dramas I have ever seen, if not one of the worst movies in general I've ever seen. I would highly recommend that you do not watch it, as there really is little good in it and it isn't really worth watching.
Sadie: In all my years, I've seen a lot of bad movies, but this must rank among the most memorable. I don't want to be mean, because I really have nothing against any of the actors. The all gave fine performances, especially Justine Waddell. If you have seen this, I hope you enjoyed it more than I. But if you haven't, I suggest you don't. It might mess with you a little.

P.S. Do hop on over to Sadie Ann's blog Birdie's Perch!


  1. Ooooooohhhhhh my......ooohhh my, I am NEVER watching that movie EVER! From what I read of the story line it's the WORST movie EVER!!!! Ok now that I've gotten out all my "what? What? WHAT?!?!" I can continue. Thanks you so much Emma Jane and Sadie, for giving us this warning, I will surely be grateful, for if I ever come across that movie, I will know not to get it. Uh....that sounds!!! I mean, really, the end scene was the worst in my opinion from reading. Uh! Ok I can't say how much I HATE it :) Anyway, never never watching it.
    Fin (the end:))

  2. Yeah, it's pretty bad. I don't know if it's the WORST movie I've ever seen, but definitely right up there. I don't know how they call it a classic, it's so horrible!

    ~Emma Jane

  3. LOL. Yeah not sure if it's the WORST thing, I have seen things that probably top it ;P


  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  5. I know this was posted awhile ago, but I had to comment and say that my sister-in-law completely agrees with you. :D She watched the newer version of this movie, and it drove her crazy. She said it was the most maddening story she had ever seen. :D We were taking a trip with them a couple weeks after she watched it, and she just had to tell us about it, because it was driving her insane. :D

    So, I'm never going to watch this! I have read about it and I know I won't like it, but after hearing about it from her, and now from you, it's definitely off my watch list. :D


  6. I read this in preparation for doing this at university. Sounds.. interesting.. (sarcasm in the interesting part)

    Thanks for the forewarning gals, I'll have to struggle through it... hopefully the professors change the curriculum and omit it *crosses fingers*


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