British filmmaker Michael Winterbottom didn't make a particularly good film until Welcome to Sarajevo, and this curiously dry adaptation of Thomas Hardy's last novel is a good example. Christopher Eccleston plays Jude Fawl... more »ey, a self-educated stonemason who dreams of attending university but identifies with the working class. Kate Winslet is his cousin Sue Bridehead, a young woman with suffragette leanings and a position as a teacher's assistant. When the two enter into an illicit union, they are condemned to the margins of society, ultimately resulting in a horrifying tragedy. Winterbottom takes an oddly lean approach to Hardy's deterministic story, which leaves a viewer feeling short on emotion just when one needs it for the from-bad-to-worse third act. Welcome to Sarajevo proved that Winterbottom needs a whole other level of personal involvement to make a film that inspires him. Jude isn't one of those lucky films. --Tom Keogh« less
Jude the Confused: "Why is everyone suddenly so likeable?"
Spare-Time Critic | New Orleans area, LA USA | 08/21/2001
(2 out of 5 stars)
"While I realize a filmmaker can't be expected to slavishly follow the original text word for word, most go too far in remaking the characters as they see fit. "Jude" is a good example. In this version, Sue has been crystalized from a flighty woman "in love with being loved" to an opinionated pre-feminist. Arabella has peeled off several layers of crassness to reveal a pragmatic, self-sufficient person who is simply trying to get by. Even Aunt Drusilla must have found better living through medication; she's now a basically good-hearted person who cares deeply for her adopted nephew! After I got past those little changes, I had to take a skeptical look at Jude himself -- with everyone around him now presented in such a sympathetic light, you start wondering, "What's HIS problem?"For example, since Arabella's basic lack of compassion is never exposed, one can only wonder why Jude leaves the house as she's butchering the pig: Is he sickened by the sight of blood? Is he repulsed by seeing his bride up to her elbows in pig entrails? In the book version, the issue was that Arabella wanted to prolong the pig's death to make the meat tastier, while Jude insisted on putting the poor creature out of its misery. In the movie, you might assume he'd thought bacon grew on trees.Another change from book to film: "Jude the Obscure" was considered scandalous when it was published, but what can shock a jaded '90s audience? Hmm... *ponder*... Oh, I know! More sex scenes! Suffice it to say, if you've ever wondered what Kate Winslet looks like in the buff, you need wonder no more. As for Christopher Eccleston, a fig leaf would've covered everything we didn't see. There's a lot more eroticism here than the book called for. Whether that's a good thing is to be determined by the eye of the beholder.The ending, like the title, is sharply abbreviated. Without the book as a reference, you'll be left wondering how things all turned out. Overall, I thought the movie failed to either remain true to the original or stand on its own merits."
Jude the Obscure - English Novel Brought to Life
eurotrashgirl | 05/08/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In this 1996 adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel, Jude the Obscure, a sad, archetypal story plays itself out across the rainy English landscape, helped along by brilliant acting and directing alike. Though the film is admittedly incredibly bleak, and the ending sad beyond words, it is all-told a brilliant, classic film. After a short opening sequence introducing us to the young Jude, the viewer is quickly drawn into the parameters of Jude's adult world. Almost at once, we begin to feel his pain, his longing, his hope, and his persistence. We understand well what is driving him in his journey through life. This is a novel brought to life, a story in motion.As a die-hard fan of Kate Winslet, I have to say that this film one of my Winslet favorites. In my view, 1997's blockbuster Titanic was not only a success as a box office triumph or well-loved film in its own right, but also because it opened the world's eyes to the talent of this young British actress, whose consistently fine performances and willingness to break through barriers as an actress have brought the world great joy on the silver screen, and will surely continue to do so well into the new millenium. In Jude, Winslet is charismatic and beautiful (as usual), and plays Sue Brideheard to a tee. Introduced to her in a small, well-loved photograph, we soon come to understand what Jude sees in her. Her beauty, her intelligence, her promise of a better life. Her laughter still echoes in my head, like the flashbacks in the film. She is youth, she is carefree, she is unattainable, she is a vision, a memory, love.Eccleston is perfect for the role of the ever-yearning Jude, his face a landscape of green hills, rain, cobblestone streets and stone carvings, and green hills yet again. There are shadows in his eyes, in his face. The depth of his feelings is well-conveyed. His tall frame is so strong and able in one way, so thin and aching in another. We walk with him, cry with him, and love him as we must love ourselves when fate comes crashing down upon us.P.S. This was my introduction to British actress Rachel Griffiths, who went on to star in Hilary and Jackie, and is currently starring in Me, Myself, and I. Although her role is smaller than Eccleston's and Winslet's, and her character perhaps less likable, she also does a fine job."
Lee Armstrong | Winterville, NC United States | 10/24/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Michael Winterbottom who directed "Welcome to Sarajevo" & "Butterfly Kiss" helmed this project that sank like a stone at the box office. Thomas Hardy's last novel "Jude the Obscure" was so poorly received that he didn't write another. But the thing about good period piece adaptations is that they remain interesting long after their initial release. This 1996 film is no different in its DVD release.
As the brooding Jude Fawley Christopher Eccleston who was in "28 Days Later" & "The Others" with Nicole Kidman does a good job with the many emotional layers of this character. Born in the lower class, he longed to be educated. But his hormones cause him to marry Arabella in an ill-fated arrangement. Then his attraction to his cousin and his dedication to their illicit love are entrancing.
Australian actress Rachel Griffiths from the "Six Feet Under" TV series and who was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for "Hillary & Jackie" does a good job in the part of Jude's wife Arrabella. The character in the screenplay seems not well fleshed. We're not totally sure why the two break off.
Kate Winslett with her 3 Oscar nominations ("Sense & Sensibility," "The Titantic," & "Iris") is a vivid actress upon whose face a range of emotions and nuances are reflected. As Jude's cousin Sue, she is a feminist prototype. We watch her aversion to religion and then her embrace of it after the death of her children in amazement as the actress covers such range.
At Jude's urging, Sue marries schoolteacher Phillotson, but it is a loveless affair. Liam Cunningham plays Phillotson excellently and delicately. His affection for Sue is as delightful as it unrequited.
Eduardo Serra did the cinematography as he did for "Beyond the Sea," "Girl with a Pearl Earring" and "The Widow of Saint-Pierre." The look of the film is exquisite and lyrical.
Thomas Hardy's story is hardly the social shocker it was in its day. However, the violence to the children is so tragic that it leaves the viewer drained and disappointed. In the end, this is a valuable picture filled with excellent performances and a classic story. Enjoy! "
Do not expect a happy end
Spare-Time Critic | 02/04/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This screen adaptation of the classic by Thomas Hardy (Jude the Obscure) stars Christopher Eccleston as Jude Fawley and a slim Kate Winslet as his cousin, Sue Bridehead. Strong supporting roles are provided by Rachel Griffiths, June Whitfield and Liam Cunningham.The film starts like many American films: someone poor and disadvsntaged has a driving ambition to succeed. If this were an American film, we would be sure of a happy ending: Jude finds a well-paid job and lives happily ever after with Sue and the children. Anyone familiar with the work of Thomas Hardy will expect fate to intervene and somehow make it impossible for the protagonists to realize their dreams. If Thomas Hardy had been born somewhat later and worked as a screenwriter, I cannot help thinking he would have specialized in the film noir genre.My main criticism is that none of the actors manages an authentic Dorset accent, with the possible exception of June Whitfield. Christopher Eccleston attempts one but invariably goes back to his Manchester accent. Rachel Griffiths produces something that sounds more like an Irish accent whilst Kate Winslet usually speaks like she does in Titanic.The film contains a few very strong scenes: a pig being slaughtered and disembowelled as well as a close-up of Kate Winslet giving birth.As a screen adaptation of one of the classics of English literature there is a lot of material, feeling pain and suffering, crammed into 110 minutes, so much so that I kept finding new meaning after four viewings. Perhaps those familiar with Hardy will prefer to read the novel whilst those who are not will find this adaptation slow and depressing. The highlight for Winslet fans may well be seeing her totally naked, but I doubt they would think it worth sitting through the whole file for those 15 seconds.This is an excellent film, faithful to the Hardy classic. The highlights of the film are the excellent cinematography and the outstanding original score by Adrian Johnston. I would strongly recommend this film with the caveat that it may not be suitable for those without the stomach to take the scenes described above or those who would find a tragic story too distressing."
Superb Acting Though a Grim Tale
M. James | Vancouver, B.C. | 12/27/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Those familiar with the bittersweet, obsessive, compulsive aspect of Thomas Hardy's so-called romantic novels will instantly know that this film is not apt to leave one with a warm fuzzy feeling by the last reel. Certainly it is not recommended that one read the novel, Jude the Obscure, before viewing. How many films have failed to live up to the expectations of the literary adaptation? Why would this be any different? Jude is a man of humble birth who strives to rise above his allotment in life. Rather than approaching the subject as a modern fairy tale where dreams do come true, the standard treatment in cinema, there is a grim realism which reflects the destructive nature of impractical and unnatural compulsions. Jude attempts to fly in the face of social convention in a headlong flight of self-destruction which at times has the horrific fascination of a slow motion train wreck, one is disturbed by the sight but unable to turn away. I knew nothing of this film save that the title characters were played by the extremely talented pair, Kate Winslet and Christopher Eccleston. That was sufficient enticement for me and as always I was not disappointed by the performances. Despite the current trend to degrade the "Masterpiece Theatre" production style actors and directors of immense talent breath life into even the dullest works. Dull this film isn't but grim it certainly is. Only a brave director would tackle this kind of project. How much easier it would have been to soften the hard edge to make the viewing more palatable. There is much to be gleaned from witnessing in all its ugliness the past stigmatization of relationships we now accept as commonplace. If one comes away from this film with nothing more than an inkling of gratitude or awe for the sacrifice of those who attempted to effect social change then this film is worth the viewing."