My first British film review here had to be something special. This one is special alright, even if a bit ‘obscure’! It boasts some famous names not just from British cinema and television, but also English literature. This is Michael Winterbottom’s (of ‘Welcome to Sarajevo’ and ’9 Songs’ fame) 1996 film, “Jude”, an adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s last book, “Jude the Obscure”.
I picked up this DVD at the store curious to see how Mr. Winterbottom had interpreted what I consider to be Hardy’s finest and deeply affecting work, having read all his published novels. I was pleased to find that a lot of the characterisation and scenery pretty much resembled the way I imagined while reading the book, and the casting of the main characters, spot-on. But it was disappointing to see only part of the story being told here, with some portions given far more screen time than the more important events. Arabella, one of the more intriguing characters in the novel is almost relegated to a side act, as is Aunt Drusilla. Considering the weeks (probably years) I spent wondering the true motives for Arabella’s actions, her part of the story has been astonishingly skimmed past. Jude’s introspections are what lifts the novel to its loftiness, but instead we are shown these long scenes of him learning Latin. As is a way too ‘earthy’ Sue Bridehead. But I suppose, this is all subjective - I’m just glad someone even decided to make a film based on the novel universally slated when first published. I must add that the novel is a whole lot more torrid than the film, and considering the times in which it was published, one can understand why it was so badly received.
On the plus side – we have a young Kate Winslet playing Sue Bridehead, and Rachel Griffiths playing Arabella – both appear in the nude, Kate more so than Rachel, but they’re both well worth a look.