171 minutes, France-U.K., 1979, Colour, D-Cinema

Set in Dorset during the Victorian era (although the film was shot entirely in Northern France), and adapted from Thomas Hardy’s 1891 titular novel, the story of an ill-fated but virtuous girl who is forced to sacrifice all to remain true to her own nature undoubtedly marked a new departure for Polanski both in terms of context and sentiment.

Dedicated simply ‘to Sharon’, and signalling a return to what he described as the ‘simplicity and essence of human relationships’, this profoundly sensitive film, captured initially by cinematographer Geoffrey Unsworth until his death in 1978, and subsequently by Ghislain Cloquet, is more concerned with mysticism, pagan ritual and the natural world than the violence and threat often associated with Polanski’s output. The film offers a sophisticated understanding of the original story and, like Hardy, Polanski is Tess’ only faithful proponent throughout.

This film is showing as part of the IFI’s Focus on Roman Polanski (January 4th – 26th).

Book Tickets