Roman Polanski

Sog.: dal romanzo Tess of the d’Urbervilles di Thomas Hardy. Scen.: Gérard Brach, Roman Polanski, John Brownjohn. F.: Geoffrey Unsworth, Ghislain Cloquet. Mo.: Alastair McIntyre, Tom Priestley. Scgf.: Pierre Guffroy. Mu.: Phillipe Sarde. Su.: Jean-Pierre Ruh. Int.: Nastassja Kinski (Tess), John Collin (John Durbeyfield), Tony Church (pastore Tringham), Peter Firth (Angel Clare), John Bett (Felix Clare), Tom Chadbon (Cuthbert Clare), Rosemary Martin (Mrs Durbeyfield), Leight Lawson (Alec d’Urberville). Prod.: Claude Berri per Renn Productions, Timothy Burrill Productions, Société Française de Production. Pri. pro.: 25 ottobre 1979 DCP. D.: 171’. 



T. it.: Italian title. T. int.: International title. T. alt.: Alternative title. Sog.: Story. Scen.: Screenplay. F.: Cinematography. M.: Editing. Scgf.: Set Design. Mus.: Music. Int.: Cast. Prod.: Production Company. L.: Length. D.: Running Time. f/s: Frames per second. Bn.: Black e White. Col.: Color. Da: Print source

Film Notes

The restored print was created by digitaliz­ing the negative image in 4K. Preliminary tests in 2K and 4K revealed that only 4K digitalization would be able to translate the contours of the image, the refined skin tones and the light and wonderfully dif­fuse glow of films from the time, obtained through the filters used by the film’s two directors of photography, Geoffrey Un­sworth and Ghislain Cloquet. Sound restoration was carried out by L.E. Diapason. Tess was one of the first films to use Dolby Stereo, the format that would revolutionize cinema by introducing multi­channel sound to the majority of theaters. Although it is likely that the sound was mixed using equipment poorly adapted to multichannel sound, the film’s soundtrack was already exploring the possibilities of­fered by the format, mainly in terms of the lavish treatment of music and the extraor­dinary work carried out on the atmosphere which offers a rare depth and quality.

“I have been influenced a great deal by surrealism and the theater of the absurd”, Polanski said. “But now that the world itself has become absurd and almost surreal, I want to go back to the simplic­ity and essence of human relationships. […] Tess is above all a great love story […] What happens to Tess in the story is very much the raw-bones of Victorian melodrama: she is seduced when young, bears a child who dies, is deserted by the man she later marries, and finally is sent to the gallows for the murder of her se­ducer. But the flesh Hardy puts on those bones is astonishing. He links the girl to the rhythm of nature, within a Victorian society at odds with everything spontane­ous and natural. […] Tess is regeneration and continuance. But the social times she lives in are out of joint. By contrasting her with her mother, Hardy points this up marvelously. […] The contrast is all there […]. The mother belongs to the past. Tess belongs to the present, to the modern age, to you and me. She is the first truly mod­ern heroine. […] Tess is a new departure. It is, as I have said, the film of my mature years. I shall be sorry if people have such a limited idea of what my style as a direc­tor is like – and my preoccupations – that they cannot accept something different from me. In the cinema, directors can be typecast as well as actors. The point will undoubtedly be raised in Cannes”. Tess, a French-English coproduction, will mark the first time that Hardy’s novel has talked on the screen. It was filmed once – a silent version in 1924 starring Blanche Sweet and Conrad Nagel – and after that David O. Selznick held the movie rights for many years (with Jennifer Jones in mind for Tess). […] Polanski discovered the book some years ago through his wife, Sharon Tate, who had been suggested for the role of Tess. […] Who was to play Tess? The production took an intriguing turn when the role of Hardy’s doomed and beautiful heroine went to a young German actress: Nastas­sia Kinski […]. “When I met Nastassia”, Polanski recalls, “she was fifteen, but she was a woman. Woman and child at the same time. She still has this quality, and that is perfect, of course, for Tess. […]On Tess we were really very… improvisato­ry. We did a lot of filming in the twilight or half-light, and that meant rushing about with the crew, camera, and actors to catch the light at a certain moment in a certain place”. […] “There are dangers like that with a period film […]. The beautiful im­ages should be only an extra; they must be the bonus. People don’t go to the cin­ema to see a collection of beautiful photo­graphs. They go to experience something. The emotion is the thing. […] Emotion […] is the main thing in all art. Art has to move, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t leave a lasting impression. There are many ways to move people – to tears, to laughter, to fear. I think with Tess that we’re dealing with such strong material that we mustn’t be worried about beauti­ful pictures. The story itself is so inter­esting, the girl is so moving, and the film itself is filled with universal human emo­tions. Tess, you must remember […] was a pure woman. It was Hardy’s subtitle to the book. She broke Victorian moral codes, but she responded to natural law, to na­ture, her nature. That’s what the whole book is about. The film is an accusation of the hypocrisy and injustice of that rigid society – and by extension of any rigid and repressive society”.
Polanski, in Harlan Kennedy, “Tess”: Polanski in a Hard Country, “Amer­ican Film”, vol. 5, n. 1, October 1979

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Restored by Pathé presso Gruppo Eclair, L.E. Diapason