The peasant father of Tess (Nastassja Kinski) discovers that their family is of noble descent,and, hoping to improve their fortunes, he sends Tess to work for a well-to-do family. Shebecomes a victim of the rakish son of the household. Abandoned, she eventually falls in lovewith parson’s son Peter Firth, but her past catches up with her.
As is typical of Thomas Hardy novels, the story is about a slow decline into misery anddeath. The intensity one associates with Po…anski isn’t anywhere as present here as it is inRosemary’s Baby and Chinatown. The production is extremely handsome,however, and the camera worships Kinski’s face.
The 2.0 audio isn’t bad, given the movie is from 1979, but it’s far from perfect. There rearspeakers get a steady workout, but some of the surround FX are misplaced: we see musiciansfar in the distance, so why are we hearing them behind us, for instance? As for the dialogue, itsuffers from occasional buzz, but also unnatural reverb as the voices sometimes become surroundthemselves.
Special edition or not, the print does not appear to have been restored (though at least thefilm is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen for the first time on home video). The coloursare decent, but there is some minor ghosting. As for the print, it is grainy and a bit misty, andthere is some damage (guitar strings, dirt, speckles).
There are three featurettes, each running between twenty minutes and half-an-hour, and allthree can be played together, creating one substantial documentary. “Tess: From Novel toScreen,” “Filming Tess” and “Tess: The Experience” feature interviews with all the major castand creators, and collectively are a solid look back at the film. the included trailers are for moreperiod pieces: Sense and Sensibility, The Remains of the Day, LittleWomen and Persuasion. The menu’s main screen and transitions are animated andscored.
A lavish, beautiful film. I do wish the picture had been more thoroughly cleaned up.
Special Features List
- “Tess: From Novel to Screen” Featurette
- “Filming Tess” Featurette
- “Tess: The Experience” Featurette