Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Tess of The D'Urbervilles

After being impressed by Thomas Hardy in Under the Greenwood Tree, I saw another brilliant adaptation of his novel, Tess of the d'Urbervilles: A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented. Even though this is a Victorian tragedy, I really loved watching the story unfold amidst breathtaking landscapes. The folks at BBC who produce such period dramas have a keen  aesthetic sense, the setting is the most striking feature of this four part BBC undertaking. 
Lush green fields as far as the eye can see, it's nature at her best in contrast to the nature of man at his worst. And this in a nutshell is the crux of this classic novel. 
The story obviously revolves around a young, pious and naive girl; Tess Durbeyfield who faces cruelty and betrayal by the men in her life. Tess is first betrayed by her alcoholic irresponsible father whose main job seems to be producing kid after kid without the paternal instinct to hold on to a job long enough to provide for his large family. Tess has to bear the burden of his drunken stupor and this sets in motion a chain of events that wreck havoc on Tess's carefree and childlike nature. Tess then faces evil in its potent form at the hands of a distant wealthy cousin and the most heartbreaking betrayal of all comes from the man she loves. I would like nothing more than to tell you the story of Tess in detail, but the main reason I enjoyed this movie so much is because I had no idea what was happening next and I want you to feel the same. I cried with Tess and cursed the circumstances that tested her strength, patience and fortitude. I think this is the first Victorian period drama where I like the female protagonist more than any of the leading men. That's because Thomas Hardy probably intended for her to be this vulnerable, virtuous and fecund. In many ways Tess represents the earth, nature in all her stunning bountiful beauty. And we are like the men in the novel who do not protect and value her (the dad), the men who cruelly strip her defenseless to feed their own innate evil nature (the distant cousin) and the men who really love her but have been blinded by what society might think (the love of her life who puts Victorian notions of morality and sanctity above true love).

Even the landscapes on screen drive home the point that nature untouched by man is lush, radiant and magnificently beautiful. Towards the end, the Stonehenge is depicted in all her pagan mysterious beauty, and my heart skipped a beat. It's a place I long to visit... The history that surrounds those gigantic stone pillars is intriguing to say the least. The Stonehenge, a circular assembly of gigantic stone pillars has been around for centuries with many theories and assumptions about their origin running strife. Nobody really knows how these stones were erected. An amazing feat of strength, mechanical or otherwise would be required to transport the stone blocks and place them over the erected pillars. And in this case it is the otherwise which remains extremely fascinating, cause there is no way those ancient people handled heavy machinery of any kind. So the question still remains, how did they manage to transport the blocks across a wide expanse of land and how did they erect it and go about placing huge boulders over the erected pillars. Someday I shall see them in person... But seeing them here in the movie was such a thrill.
This movie is a visual treat, it invokes a deep protective feeling that makes you want to snatch Tess out of the hands of those worthless, deceitful and hypocritical people. You yearn to restore her dignity and self-worth, to instill that pure childlike nature of trusting, hoping and dreaming in a life... that is not bound by strict values of a Victorian morality, but a life that finds peace of mind, body and soul in recognising your own worth and realising that it wasn't you... that it has never been you, but the others who ought to change their cruel natures instead of breaking the beautiful wings, your mind soars on.
The beautiful and vulnerable Tess is played to perfection by Gemma Arterton, she brings Tess to life with her charm, innocence and spirit. Her perfect diction and lilting voice is captivating, makes you wish you could speak like her. The men don't require a mention, nobody stood out... or maybe they did with their pitiful natures that you tend to loathe them. In which case, the casting should be praised cause every single person nailed their part. Like nature, religion is also a major element here and not surprisingly, it too contributes to the misery and self-righteous judgement heaped on poor virtuous Tess. All in all an engrossing Victorian tragedy with many allegories that ring true in today's world.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Under the Greenwood Tree

Saw a beautiful period drama 'Under the Greenwood Tree' yesterday and as always I couldn't help falling in love with the lead characters, especially Dick Dewy. This is a heart tugging adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel - Under the Greenwood Tree or the Mellstock Quire: A Rural Painting of the Dutch School. Never read the book before, but I intend to... have to find out more bout Dick Dewy. The movie starts one cold December morning when a school teacher hired by the new vicar, rides into the quaint  little rural village, Mellstock. It's snowing all around and the horse drawn carriage trudges its way through the biting cold carrying Fancy Day, the homely teacher. That one scene was enough to hook me: snow, horse drawn carts, Fancy Day's bonnet and her bulky gown... that's half the magic of any period drama. The rest half is taken up by the flawed, intense and ruggedly good looking men who take your breath away... think Mr. Darcy, Mr. Rochester, Mr. Knightly and now Mr. Dewy. 

So Fancy Day slowly settles into her charming rural life teaching the children of Mellstock, while three suitors vie for her attention and her hand in marriage. And things get complicated when she falls in love with one of them but cannot marry him as she has an obligation to her father. This is pastoral romance at its best, the idyllic country life mostly depicted by the Mellstock church choir who are threatened by the arrival of the new church organ. How Fanny makes up her mind forms the rest of the story, will she abide by her father's wish or will she follow her hearts desire? Fancy portrayed by Keeley Hawes does her part well, but for me it was James Murray as Dick Dewy who really brought life to this classic. He is enchantingly captivating, and he breathes fire into your veins... you'll find yourself still reeling under his effect after you're done watching this movie.

The title of this book is taken from one of Shakespeare's poems:
Under the Greenwood Tree
Who loves to lie with me,
And turn his merry note
Unto the sweet bird's throat,
Come hither, come hither, come hither:
Here shall he see
No enemy
But winter and rough weather.