You missed the point re: Angel Clare
A surprisingly lifeless affair. Subpar performances, with Peter Firth's reptilian Angel Clare setting some kind of standard for sheer Implausibility as a Romantic Hero.
I know that I saw TESS when it was theatrically released but I honestly had no recollection of it before deciding to give it a second chance. Now I'm quite convinced that you can enjoy or hate the same movie according to when you see it. Just think that I was sure, 25 years ago, that Steven Spielberg would become the new Orson Welles of the 7th art ; how was I wrong... But I'm wandering from the point. The fact is that I was extremely stirred by this Brach/Polanski adaptation of Thomas Hardy novel. During the projection, I often had the feeling to walk around in the aisle of a museum dedicated to English paintings. Three hours of pleasure. Masterpiece.
I find the other comments quite strange, as I find this film terrible in most aspects - directing, acting, editing, rhythm... and it has none of the mood and poetry of Hardy's wonderful novel. This is by far the Polanski film I enjoyed the least.
I thought this was one of the most successful adaptations of a novel to film. Kinski was perfect as Tess, and the film moved with the same beautiful pace as the novel, bringing the story just as evocatively to its tragic end.