***½/**** Image A Sound B+ Extras B
starring Nastassia Kinski, Peter Firth, Leigh Lawson, John Collin
screenplay by Gerard Brach, Roman Polanski, John Brownjohn, based on the novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
directed by Roman Polanski
by Bryant Frazer In the annals of feel-bad literature, Thomas Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles is a corker, pitting natural beauty and goodness against a battery of opposing forces--the church, the aristocracy, modern technology, human avarice--and finding beauty debased. It was a loaded area of study for Roman Polanski, who adapted it as a Hollywood artist in exile, working in France rather than nearer the book's setting of Wessex, England, for fear of his deportation to the U.S. on rape charges. Just as Polanski's bloody Macbeth has been interpreted as a howl of pain following the murder of his beloved wife, Sharon Tate, his Tess can be read as an act of penance, if not a bid for rehabilitation.