A look at the design, market and legacy of Victorian pottery

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Majolica in the movies: Tess

In 1978 Roman Polanski fled the United States for France after pleading guilty to the seduction/ rape of a 13 year old girl. At the time he was in pre-production for a film he had long kept in development, a film adaptation of the Thomas Hardy novel Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Originally planned as a vehicle for his late wife Sharon Tate the movie was placed on the back burner after her sensational murder by the Manson family in 1969. He returned to the novel nine years later, this time as a vehicle for his latest protégée Nastassja Kinski. With his flight to France to avoid a prison sentence for his Hollywood "transgression" Polanski found himself an international fugitive unable to travel to England to film this most quintessential of British novels. His solution was to recreate Victorian England in the French countryside. The resulting movie released in 1979, is a sad, beautiful film dedicated to Sharon Tate but today most remembered as the film that made Nastassia Kinski an international star.

Given the background information I have just relayed, it should be of no surprise that the recreated English countryside periodically betrays its country of location, most noticeably in the weak recreation of Stonehenge at the end of the movie where the climax of the film takes place. But for the close eyed viewer and majolica collector, the French location shoot betrays itself much earlier in the film in the simple French majolica crockery used by the peasant folk in the earlier part of the film.

I was unable to get a screen capture to illustrate this post but should you get a chance to see this lovely film, look for the French majolica used by the British lasses during their picnic. It's a subtle, but telling clue to the background surrounding the shoot of a director fleeing from justice yet still trying to create his art on the continent.