Monday, September 27, 2010

Film Review: Jude the Obscure

It's been awhile since I last reviewed a film, but recently put a couple of period dramas in my Netflix circulation that I can talk about.  Since finishing the novel Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy, I really felt as though I secured my fan status of Hardy's work.  My admiration for his guts in tackling hard social issues surrounding marriage and women really have me in awe at his bravery!  Now I realize that his novels, and this one in particular, have received mixed reviews because of their often gloomy topics and outcomes.  For whatever reason, I really like the buttons that Hardy tried to push, and can continue to push in his readers today.  Having said that, I was curious to see this novel about poor Jude, the stone mason and academic, put to film.  Unfortunately, most of Hardy's novels have not been updated as Tess of the D'Urbervilles has been, so I had to settle on a BBC Masterpiece Theater version from 1971.  (See my Jude the Obscure review for more specific information on the storyline.)

The film itself was in broken into six mini-episodes that covered each of the sections of the original novel.  The filming felt very similar to a video recording of a stage play though, with its strange jumps and one dimensional shooting.  There was very little movement to capture the actions of the characters, but one film shot to show an entire scene.  Some of the backdrops, especially of Christminster looked like painted backdrops, since I didn't notice the people moving?  The acting was also a bit jarring.  Besides the characters looking out of date and garish in a lot of ways, I thought that the acting was reminiscent of the overacting that would be done in an older, classical version of a Dickens story.  In fact, it reminded me a bit of an old Christmas Carol film that was in black and white.  It was all just a bit much. 

The one thing that I thought was the most out of character with this out of date telling of Hardy's novel was the nude scenes.  Honestly, for something that would have been aired on PBS, I had a hard time imagining the scenes of the women undressing and showing their breasts and torsos being allowed on television.  Besides, having read the novel, I was confused as to the reason behind artistically choosing to shoot partial nudity?  It was just a bit odd is all.  If it was a necessary element to forward the character development and story I would understand, but this just felt thrown in there in a really bizarre way.

To be honest, the film was too long for me.  After about two and a half hours I started fast-forwarding drawn out dialogue scenes to get to the scenes that I remembered with  great interest, such as when Jude's wife returns and he finds out he has a child, or when Sue joins Jude and overlooks the downcast opinions of society to be with him.  Other than a few interesting interpretations, I can't say that my modern sensibilities caught on to this rather long, drawn out film.  In my estimation, I would definitely stick to the book until a better film adaptation rolls down the pike!

In closing, I have to say that while I ADORE my Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell films that have been made and remade of late, I really wish that some of these old films would get a good update.  In fact, I'd love to see someone conquer books such as Don Quijote or Brave New World.  Filmmakers have such a great wealth of stories to choose from in these classic novels! Maybe it's time for them to tackle some of them again?

Are there film adaptations of any novels or plays that you wish they would update? 


  1. Actually there was an update of this one in the mid to late 90s. The reason you may have missed it is probably because I believe the name was shortened to "Jude". It starred Christopher Eccleston (Dr. Who) and Kate Winslet (Sense & Sensibility) among others. It was actually very good, but still a very sad story. Let me know what you thought of it, if you can get your hands on it.

  2. Oh...forgot to mention that I received my bookmark. Gorgeous! Thanks again!

  3. Whoa, this movie sounds rather terrible! I'm glad it was you watching it and not me. ;)

    I'd really love to see The Prisoner of Zenda remade--it would be such a great movie!

  4. Don't you remember how we had to watch that horrible documentary about how Terry Gilliam tried to make Don Quijote into a movie in Don's class?? Argh.

  5. Michelle--Yay! I'm glad you received the bookmark. :) I can't believe I didn't know about the newer version!!! I'll have to look into it, because this version was absolutely horrible.

    Heidenkind--Yes, it is beyond horrible! I need to see The Prisoner of Zenda. I'm not really familiar with it.

    Gretchen--Yes, I do. The one good thing about that movie...Johnny Depp! :)