Yesterday I watched 'Jude The Obscure' - 1971 version.
I have watched the version with Christopher Eccleston and Kate Winslet some years ago and was shocked to see the end. Thomas Hardy was very cruel to his characters. I once discussed Hardy's writings with a friend, and she agreed that his was gloomy.
The 1971 version was longer, being a mini-series for TV. Robert Powell starred as Jude Fawley and Fiona Walker as his cousin Sue Brideshead, whose thoughts were much modern than women those days. I haven't read the book, but from what I understood, this version is faithful to it. Little Jude was poor and orphaned, lived with an aunt, very keen to study. When he was enough of age, he became a stonemason, while looking his way to university. Unfortunately, he met Bella, the local pig-farmer's daughter and married her; despite his aunt's protests that Fawleys should not be married. However, things were not always bad for Jude, as Bella and his family moved to Australia; so Jude could go to Christminster, where he could perhaps meet his old school-master and go into a university. Here he met cousin Sue and fell in love with each other. Sue saw marriages as a kind of clumsy contract, that there was no need to make it official - like to go to the church or civil office - to register it. If 2 people were in love, that made the marriage. However the society was not that modern. It was the time when people who called themselves Christians could be offended when they saw a pregnant woman with 3 children didn't have a wedding ring on her finger, while they themselves spent most of the time peeping out the windows watching what their neighbours were doing.
Jude The Obscure is the most tragic story I have known. Perhaps their life would have been better if Sue believed Jude was truly hers so they could go and live in London, same city with Bella; than wandered around in the country from one little town to another, where the inhabitants cared so much about what their neighbours' doings.
Compared with the Kate Winslet version, the 1971 version seemed very stagey - but I don't mind, as the story itself is very strong and included many powerful lines from the novel, which was Hardy's last and also regarded as his best. Hardy was so disappointed with the negative reviews (The Anglican Bishop of Wakefield ordered a public burning of the book) that he resolved never to write another novel.