I had a discussion with my girlfriend recently about The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, instigated by my viewing of the unimpressive trailer for the new remake (in 3D, of course). When I explained the basic premise – a group of kids run into a family of skin-wearing cannibals – she was appalled at A) why someone would watch such a film, B) why someone would make it, and C) what kind of depraved soul would own such a monstrosity. I then answered questions A and C (she wouldn’t have cared that Tobe Hooper made it) by pointing to the copy of the film on my DVD shelf. Why do I bring this up? Well, though I’m not a massive fan of horror (I haven’t seen The Texas Chain Saw Massacre since I bought it), I will occasionally watch a film for the same reasons I go on rollercoasters; they add a certain element of thrill and excitement – and terror – otherwise missing from my humdrum existence on this Earth. My question is, who would watch, make or own a film like Jude?
For you see, Jude is horrendously depressing. Now, this may not come as a surprise to those who are familiar with the works of Thomas Hardy, upon whose novel, Jude the Obscure, this is based, as I’m told they are generally somewhat maudlin in tone, but I wasn’t aware this was written by Hardy, and it wouldn’t have mattered if I had for I’d only ever heard of his name, and not his reputation. As such I was blissfully unaware that I was to be taken yet again along a path of depression and despair, and all in the pursuit of watching another Kate Winslet film.
The story sees Jude (Christopher Eccleston), a young farm-raised aspiring scholar, marrying a local floozy (Rachel Griffiths) he impregnated and preparing to settle down for a simple life until she runs away and he heads to Christminster to go to University and make something of himself. He meets up with Sue (Winslet), a cousin he’d previously never met, and the two become closer than society is happy with, despite being related.
My main problem with this film is the characters. Jude makes for something of a soppy lead, overly compliant, idealistic and determined yet in the most pathetic ways possible. Sue also comes across as something of a bitch, so much so that it’s difficult to see why anyone would fall for her. She repeatedly rebuffs Jude’s advances – even after making a drunken pass at him – then [SPOILER] marries someone else out of spite, and asks Jude to give her away, which he does. She even makes Jude promise he’ll never stop trying to forge a relationship between them, even though she is the only obstacle between them. [END OF SPOILER] It’s all so bloody infuriating. Griffiths’ Arabella is equally odious, seemingly proud she can remember the birthday of her own child, though I’ll accept this as she’s supposed to be hateful. Liam Cunningham’s mentor character Phillotson seems to be the only decent one amongst them.
Eccleston seems to be a perfect fit for such a dour adaptation, as happiness does not appear to be an emotion he’s familiar with. His face is reminiscent of Peter Cushing sucking a lemon, and as such the rare moments of elation fall flat as he can’t quite sell anything other than consternation or rage. Winslet on the other hand gives a very natural performance, with only a slight laugh feeling somewhat forced and out of place. Clearly, this is not a film in which happiness thrives.
I was thrilled to see the screen shared by two Doctor Who alumni simultaneously, when David Tennant cropped up as ‘Drunken Undergraduate’ to challenge Eccleston’s Jude to recite something in Latin, but alas Tennant wasn’t seen again after that point. There was also a strikingly similar scene to one in Titanic, where again Winslet had to impress the commoners – including James Nesbitt, soon to be seen as Bofur in The Hobbit – with her physical skills, this time involving dancing whilst smoking instead of standing on her tiptoes.
If surprising nudity, full frontal birthing and horrific gore are your bag, then look no further. Winslet appears stark-bollock naked with absolutely no warning twice in the film, and both times the camera revels in showing every inch of her body, and later on there’s a scene that gives the climax of Knocked Up a run for it’s money in babies being forced out of women. I’d hoped to never see anything being born – especially from the view of the feet, looking up into widely spread legs dripping with blood – but alas my nightmares have finally come true. There’s also a particularly vile and drawn out killing of a pig that I’m desperately trying to forget. I can still see the very graphic slaughter, with the pig’s legs flailing wildly and uselessly as the knife is brutally stabbed into it’s throat, and it continues to flounder on the table as blood gushes into a bucket, before being strung up and it’s innards hacked out. Oh God, the squealing.
On a lighter note, some of the dialogue, mainly pertaining to the attitudes of the time, now comes off as laughably quaint. According to Sue, no man would ever even touch a woman unless she invites him to, and a young Jude is told in the black and white opening that if he wants to do anything in life, he’ll have to go to University and get a degree. Once he has that, he can choose his future. Like I said, laughable.
I’ve seen quite a few films that I deeply regret watching, and whilst this is certainly not the most soul crushing and mind scarring, it definitely makes the top ten. I strongly advise against watching this film, and whereas before I might have once picked up a Hardy novel eventually, now I feel that I probably never will.
Choose life 5/10