Resolving the Dilemma of Mixed Reviews: Faithful Film Adaptations of Thomas Hardy's "Far From the Madding Crowd" and "Tess of the D'urbervilles"

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Rex Stamper

Advisor Department



Because the film reviews of John Schlesinger's Far from the Madding Crowd and Roman Polanski's Tess are both positive and negative and state that these films are both faithful and unfaithful adaptations of Thomas Hardy's novels, the dilemma caused by such conflicting critical reactions makes the status of film criticism as a meaningful and substantive endeavor highly suspect. A summary of the reviews of these two films shows that the critics are concerned with how faithfully the films replicate Hardy's plot, how accurately the performances of the stars depict Hardy's characterizations, how the cinematography reflects Hardy's vision of Wessex, and how effectively the films capture Hardy's spirit. The absence of serious comparative analyses of these two film adaptations creates a need for testing both the fidelity of these films and the validity of the existing film reviews. In order to determine how faithfully Hardy's novels are transposed to celluloid, it is necessary for film critics to understand the theory of the transformation process from words to pictures and then to devise a method for comparing films adapted from novels. Since point of view, plot, setting, character, and theme are present in both films and fiction, these five common elements offer a viable methodological basis for comparing films and novels. Using literary criticism to analyze Hardy's prose makes an analysis of the films' fidelity possible by juxtaposing scene equivalents from novels to films. Once the fidelity of the adaptations has been established, the validity of the film reviews can be assessed. What the final analyses of the film reviews reveals is the need for methodological film criticism as a means of evaluating the fidelity of films based on novels.