Cinema review: Tess (1980)

What do you get if you mix great cinematography with fine acting and wonderful direction combined with a depressing story? Roman Polanski's Tess, a great summary here. The young Tess gets seduced/raped/exploited by a rich guy whom she had hoped would help her family as a kinsman. She flees, pregnant. The baby dies. The local vicar won't give the baby a Christian burial. He had previously informed her father that he comes from an ancient family line that were originally pagans. She baptizes her son and buries him with proper prayers then flees her village. She finds work as a milkmaid and falls in love with another vicar's prodigal son, Angel. She doesn't reveal her sordid past until after the wedding when he had revealed his past affair. He rejects her and flees to Brazil. She ends up back with the rapist as a means of support for her and her family. Angel returns and confesses he's wrong. So she kills her oppressor and together she and Angel flee to the North. Eventually they are caught at Stonehenge, or something similar, a pagan shrine, where she acquires peace to face justice. She is led off to a trial and the gallows.

That is so lame. Perhaps much more is left out from the novel, Tess of the D'Urvervilles. I did enjoy Hardy's Return of the Native, which I read twice. As a Christian reader a couple themes jump out to me. Hardy lays blame at the feet of the church. It failed to help the needy and blamed the victim. However, I think Hardy found no hope at all in any religion. The pagan past and conclusion offer nothing either. A wiki article about him agree with my thoughts on his religious leanings. The article says the problem of evil was too great a one for him to reconcile with the God of Christianity. It selects one quote from Tess, "The inherent will to enjoy and the circumstantial will against enjoyment." 

However, Tess does make poor moral choices. Rape is not her fault, but murder and lies will not improve anything either.

The movie won 3 Oscars, but the story stinks and is almost 3 hours of pain. 


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