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Tess of the d'Urbervilles

3.9 out of 5 stars 638 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Tess of the d'Urbervilles (2008)

A passionate, sensual and very modern version of Thomas Hardy's infamous novel, combining young, upcoming acting talent with recognisable and much-loved faces. When the beautiful and innocent Tess Durbeyfield is driven by family poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D'Urbervilles and seek a portion of their family fortune, meeting the manipulative Alec proves to be her downfall. Starring Gemma Arterton (James Bond: Quantum of Solace), Eddie Redmayne (The Other Boleyn Girl) and Hans Matheson (The Tudors).


Ten years have passed since the BBC last produced Tess of the d’Urbervilles, then starring Justine Waddell, and this new four-episode miniseries based on Thomas Hardy’s Victorian novel does well, again, by sticking closely to the original plot. Gemma Arterton this time brilliantly portrays Tess Durbeyfield, a character whose blend of naiveté and sexual allure makes her a guy magnet. Arterton’s long, dark hair and fair skin alone are the model of Gothic beauty, and her acting imbues Tess with the sweetness that helps maintain viewer sympathies as Tess embarks on a road of endless hardship. As the story is chock full of heated drama, each hourlong installment shows how Tess endures drastic emotional and social life change, leaving one feeling both exhausted for her and craving to witness more of her strength. As far as literary characters go, Tess warns young women to the wild ways of men and inspires all to strive for honesty. The morality implicit to the story is made apparent in this BBC version, and leaves the viewer questioning the effectiveness of Tess’s stringent moral sense, especially by today’s different sexual standards. Tess, in 2008, seems permanently punished for something that not only was not her fault, but also that may be unfortunately more common than perhaps it once was, namely teenage pregnancy. Episode One launches directly into Tess’s early meeting of her true love, the seemingly heroic Angel Clare (Eddie Redmayne). But her family’s poverty trumps the crush; once her robust parents John Durbeyfield (Ian Puleston-Davies) and Joan Durbeyfield (Ruth Jones) discover their hereditary ties to the royal d’Urbervilles, they send Tess off to a mansion to inquire for work. It is there that she encounters the villainous predator, Alec d’Urberville (Hans Matheson), and the tensions between a story about an upwardly mobile lady and a lady doomed by fate begins to take hold. The loss of Tess’ child and Tess’ inability to gain respect following her un-Christian motherhood comprise the next two episodes’ story. In these, we witness women bonding against a society of men who judge Tess too harshly. There are her loving sisters, like Liza-Lu (Jo Woodcock), and the girlfriends who support her through her milkmaid career and worse. As Tess, however, reunites with Angel and agrees to marry him, tragedy is foreshadowed by her dearest friend, Retty Priddle (Emily Beecham), who withers from jealousy. The closer Tess comes to happiness, the more those around her suffer. Once Tess experiences an ultimate shunning, without giving away too much, dire circumstances prevail.

Episode Four reminds the viewer of the destructive aspects of Tess’ aggressors, Alec and Groby (Christopher Fairbank), her employer who works her like a horse. By the time forgiveness arrives for Tess, it is too late. This version of the story explores less its sexual connotations, as does Roman Polanski’s Tess, relying more heavily on the scales shifting hour to hour from fortune to failure and back. The whole viewing is a roller coaster ride, well-worth every moment to be reminded of the ways this classic tale lives on in its application to contemporary life. --Trinie Dalton

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Gemma Arterton, Eddie Redmayne, Hans Matheson, Ruth Jones, Ian Puleston-Davies
  • Directors: David Blair
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: January 13, 2009
  • Run Time: 226 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (638 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B001J4E1D8
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,784 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Grace VINE VOICE on January 12, 2009
Format: DVD
"Tess of the d'Urbervilles" is one of my favorite books, and Tess is I dare say my favorite literary character. I loved the 1998 adaptation of "Tess" as soon as I saw it, and I was really excited to see if this newer, longer, (hopefully) fresher adaptation could possibly improve on an already beautiful version. At the same time, I was preparing myself to try not to dislike it. Happily, I can say: though it's still not a definitive adaptation, this version definitely holds its own.

Things "Tess '08" got right:

1. A great Tess
Gemma Arterton makes this character her own. While Justine Waddell's Tess was delicate and sensual, Arterton plays Tess with more bite. Both are valid interpretations of the character. Both, however, also excel at the highly emotional scenes. Tess is a sympathetic and brilliant character and Arterton definitely does the role justice

2. Very strong supporting cast
Though I still like the supporting cast of the '98 version more, I loved this version's portrayal of Tess's friends Marion and Izz. Tess's family members were also well chosen, and everyone at Talbothy's diary was great! Hans Matheson's portrayal of the morally ambiguous Alec d'Urberville is particularly noteworthy.

3. An extremely strong last half
While it has its rough spots, the whole movie is worth it for the last hour. It's an emotional rollercoaster. I challenge you not to get an ache in your heart.

A few things that did not please me:

1. A disappointing Angel Clare
Eddie Redmayne just did not do it for me. I was never convinced by Tess and Angel's romance, and the actor who played him was just...dull, and seemed slightly dim-witted.

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Format: DVD
That haunting song has been stuck in my head ever since I saw this four-part BBC miniseries. It was a stroke of genius to incorporate this folk tune into the soundtrack (composed by Rob Lane), which sums up the mood and aura of this tragic tale of a young woman wronged so unjustly by two men. Gemma Arterton is wonderful as Tess Durbeyfield, probably Thomas Hardy's most well-loved heroine, exploited by her ignorant parents into claiming noble heritage and discarded by 19th century society. Hans Matheson is Alec Stoke-d'Urberville, the wealthy cad who violates her, unknowingly impregnates her with a child who doesn't survive babyhood and later comes back into her life as a supposedly reformed preacher. Eddie Redmayne is Angel Clare, the seemingly kind-hearted and tolerant parson's son who wins Tess's love but proves to be just as hypocritical as his religious family and his actions bring Tess to despair. As in most Hardy tales, tragedy looms a large shadow over the lives of his characters.

Arterton's Tess is matched perfectly by Matheson's Alec, who is given more depth than any of the earlier film adaptations. The dark and tormented essence gives you the sense how doomed these two characters really are - their actions and words toward each other leads to their downfall. Unfortunately, the same cannot be applied to Redmayne's Angel, who looks befuddled and lost more than half the time. There is a rushed directorial pace in the second installment that hurts the romantic appeal between Tess and Angel, and the love story element seems a bit forced as a result. Because of that, I didn't get the appeal of Angel in this one, or why Tess and her fellow dairymaids were in love with him, or why Tess takes the desperate course of action in order to get him back.
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I give this 1 star only because I have to! Do not watch this if you are in any way sad or depressed. Awful story - not one decent character in the entire film. I stuck with it to then end wrongly hoping that that it would turn around and have some sort of happy ending. Nope, I was wrong - sad from beginning to the end. Not just sad - dark and depressing. I have a hard time believing that anyone likes this film and yet it gets some pretty glowing reviews! How? The acting and scenery were fine but come on do you really watch a movie for scenery and costumes? Not one happy moment in the entire movie. Not one happy character in the entire movie. Nothing worth your time - move on to something else and don't waste your time with this one.
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Format: DVD
I've never read the book before, and this was my first time watching a film adaptation of this story. Its funny because I accidentally started watching it, but within a few minutes I found myself captivated by this movie. By the end of the first two hours I found myself hating Alec for what he did to Tess. However, near the end I almost started liking him, which really surprised me. Even though he was a bad person his character was a tortured soul. He cared for Tess as much as he could care for anyone. He even tried to make things right by marrying her. I actually felt sorry for him as she kept rejecting him. I knew that he had never changed, but I felt that he really did care for her. Perhaps it was more so lust than true love that he had for her. I also felt sorry for Tess. I felt sorry for both of them if that is possible. I didn't quite understand the whole mistress thing though. I came to the conclusion that he wanted to marry her, but he couldn't because she was legally still married to Angel. She was his only lover though, so in theory they were married, but just not legally. Perhaps Alec didn't deserve death either. He told her that her husband wouldn't come back, but even Tess thought he wouldn't come back. I didn't think he was coming back either. I understand that she was exacting revenge upon the man who had essentially ruined her life. However, she also played a part in her own destruction. I felt her biggest downfall was telling Angel about her past. I suppose that was part of her characteristic purity. Angel was not as effective of a character as Tess, or Alec. I didn't hate him, or like him much. He was a wet mop of a character.Read more ›
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