Bullhead Blu-ray Review
The image quality on this 1080p 2.35:1 AVC encode is surprisingly questionable. Shot on film and transferred digitally, it's not visually weak, but there are most definitely some noticeable artifacts on display here, minor as they may be. Noise doesnt particularly bother me, but with Blu-ray presentations becoming increasingly flawless, it's worth mentioning that this video presentation is raw in places. In darker scenes there's visible noise that creeps into the blacks, causing some green flecks.The overall palette for the movie is overwhelmingly dim. Clearly this is intentional, and cinematographer Nicolas Karakatsanis has managed to capture a bleak and grim looking countryside setting. I find myself feeling as though this gets the image slightly closer to the realism you'd expect from such a film, so I'm personally OK with it.
Blacks are deep and hold detail reasonably well, with shadow detail being perfectly fine in reasonably brightly lit scenes. The darker scenes though, as I mentioned above, lose a considerable amount of detail due to the noise issues, and the fact that the grading on the picture is very definite and obvious. Don't get me wrong, it works, that's for sure, but it's heavy handed with post treatment, and if I'm honest, I felt like I was being told by the overall treatment how I was supposed to be feeling about the scene I was watching. The heavy green hue in a lot of Jacky's solitary scenes really does overstate the bleakness of the man, and the stark contrast of colourful vibrance in the flashback scenes of Jacky as a boy just felt a little unnecessary.
The English Subtitles appear white and within the image, and I had no trouble whatsoever in following them.
Overall, the image is sharp, and it knows what it wants to show you. It's confident, but at the same time, slightly overcompensates in the grading department. It's quite a dull picture, but I feel this was intentional. A few minor issues as I said, but on the whole, a pretty decent showing, even if it doesn't stand up to todays expectations for visual fidelity 100%.
The DTS-MA HD 5.1 audio presentation is never going to dazzle from a qualitative perspective. However it's solid, and experimental for sure.
Firstly, dialogue is sharp and clear, and there's no problems hearing the delivery at any time. The whole soundscape is decent, though occupying mostly the frontal array. Despite this, it's important to note that the audio presentation has been thought about long and hard, and it's evident from how it's delivered. What it does particularly well is to try and add to the visceral tension throughout the movie, often allowing there to be prolonged noticable silences or sequences in which only ambience can be heard despite there being on screen action taking place. It does this in a way that lulls you into feeling an intense sensation of anticipation, and then suddenly it pulls you out of it with an abrupt return to the full sound mix. It's really quite clever, and definitely only underlines the lack of exploitation of the surround array. It works, and it absolutely adds to the drama of the piece.
The sound mix also has a few tricks up it's sleeve in adding drama to the visuals. Something that many films can't boast. For example, during the flashback scene in which a young Jacky experiences a terrifyingly shocking and traumatic ordeal, the sound mix lets us create some distance between us and the horrors that are taking place on screen. We drift away from it, whilst still watching it happen, almost as though the sound mix is suggesting that we, the audience, are shutting our minds down in order to cope with what's happening.
Despite doing nothing much in the way of elevating the quality of the sound mix, it's really quite an excellent experience from the audio presentation. Coupled with an evocative string based score, it's an excellent offering, though it's never going to shake the floor or rattle your eardrums. It delivers all it should, and more.
I have to say I was slightly disappointed with the Extras on this Blu-ray. I had hoped for commentary of some description, but then I suppose if there was one, I'd have some trouble reading both set of subtitles. What's here is pretty average to tell you the truth.
25 minutes of behind the scenes footage and interviews with the actors who discuss their characters in depth. Perfectly informative to watch, though I found that the subtitles were almost impossible to read at times as they are white and a lot of the background is white too.
Pretty self explanitory.
Bullhead is genuinely an exceptional film. Profoundly original, disturbingly aggressive, deeply memorable. It pushes buttons that can't be unpushed, and manages to convey a constant sense of overwhelming tension. With a powerfully energetic performance from Matthias Schoenaerts, this directorial debut is, without a doubt, one of the finest and most engaging worls of art to hit the Blu-ray shelves this year.
The package itself is decent without overloading us with additional extras and what not. The case comes in a nice cardboard slip cover, which will look the part on any existing shelf. With the video presentation being decent, and boasting and excellent audio presentation, and a captivating movie that cuts deep and never heals, I have no reluctance in recommending this one whole-heartedly.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99
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