Top positive review
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on 11 March 2017
This "Tess Of The D'Urbervilles" is a four-hour BBC television adaptation of Thomas Hardy's iconic novel. The script has been carefully adapted by David Nicholls - he was very keen to follow the plot and narrative of Hardy as faithfully as possible. It tells the story of Tess Durbeyfield, a low-born girl from the rural countryside whose family find they may have high noble connections. Many romantic episodes confront her - some are positive, but others prove to be destructive.
The acting is first class throughout - especially the three principal performers. The gorgeous Gemma Arterton is eye-catching as Tess, combining humour, indecision, naivety, energy and high emotion - needless to say she looks alluring and wide-eyed throughout. Eddie Redmayne portrays Angel with a combination of truth and justice, but also bloody-mindedness. He perfectly offers these two different sides to his character, although it is glaringly obvious that Angel is a hypocrite in the way he reacts to Tess's sexual past. And, Hans Matheson plays Alec with fire and energy, although it is fair to say his character becomes more distasteful as the series progresses.
Memorable scenes which are taken directly from Hardy's novel include Angel carrying the four milkmaids through the flooded stream - this captures the gentlemanly nature of Angel, and how appealing he was to all the women. Also, the blood dripping through the ceiling after the murder is reminiscent of a Hitchcock movie - gruesome and shocking. The finale at an early morning misty Stonehenge is incredibly atmospheric - Redmayne and Arterton are at the peak of their powers as they depart in a very emotional way.
Filmed principally in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, the rolling fields and pastures became a key character in the series. When the characters walked to their destinations, the panoramic images of the lush green natural environment demonstrate that the distances they had traveled were very long. However appealing the landscape looks, it is still barren and unforgiving - matching the emotional roller-coaster the characters are put through.
Although it is difficult to find fault with this series, Roman Polanski's Oscar-winning "Tess" version (1979) carries more weight and is more powerful at key moments. That said, Gemma Arterton is the match of Nastassja Kinski in the title role.