Tess is a sensitive, intelligent screen treatment of a literary masterwork. Roman Polanski has practiced no betrayal in filming Thomas Hardy’s 1891 novel, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, and his adaptation often has that infrequent quality of combining fidelity and beauty.
Tess Durbeyfield is an uncommonly beautiful peasant girl whose derelict father learns of the family’s descent from once noble Norman ancestry, the d’Urbervilles. Learning of the existence of a rich family bearing this name, Tess’ parents induce the girl to present herself as a distant relation in the hope of reaping profit from the family tree.
The young rakish master of the d’Urbervilles, Alec, gives her employment and seduces her. Tess returns home and bears a child who dies after a short time.
She meets and falls in love with Angel Clare. They marry but, on the wedding night, Tess reveals her past. Angel reacts horribly and leaves here.
First-rate contributions are the color photography of Geoffrey Unsworth (who died during the shooting and was succeeded by Ghislain Cloquet) and the superb production design of Pierre Guffroy.
1980: Best Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design (Anthony Powell).
Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Original Score