PictureEden Log comes to Blu-ray sporting a 1080p transfer that utilises the VC-1 codec and is framed in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, all wrapped in a single layered BD25 disc.
The visual style uses by Frack Vestiel doesn't really lend itself to showing the shining qualities of a high definition transfer. It is intentionally de-saturated, to the point of appearing just a hair's breadth away from actually being monochromatic. The prime emphasis of the image seems to be one of impact through darkness and extremes, something it carries off capably. Inky blacks stretch into nothingness as a blanket effect cuts scenes into many pieces, giving a fragmented feeling to the display. Contained within these shards are not only deep blacks but also blinding white lights that pierce the retina and create a strong sense of contrast.
When extremes aren't on display, the shadow detail is good and the textures found on the protagonist's clay smothered hair and bedraggled clothes start to highlight where the extra definition can be appreciated. Dust particles and breath swirl in the air and the grime on the dilapidated walls and destroyed equipment is evident. Grain is pretty even throughout, though it can be a touch difficult assessing when so much particle debris is floating in the shots. Similarly, the wavering and ethereal shadows hardly aid judgement of image quality. There is occasional softness that appears to be more down to the handheld cameras used and fluid style of shooting as opposed to any transfer difficulties.
Overall, this is a presentation that won't bowl over those unsure of the benefits of Blu-ray, but will grow on you the more you look into the depths of the picture. The lack of colour doesn't help the image truly leap from the screen with any great sense of three-dimensionality as some prefer, however the striking extremes of the quasi black and white cinematographic style are certainly pleasing in terms of contrast and detail.
SoundThere is only one sound option available to those wishing to watch the main film. At least it is a lossless track though, being an English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix.
Where the visuals often pushed for the emphasis to be placed on contrasting extremes, the audio favours a rather more subtle approach that is anything but two dimensional. From the outset of the high pitched whines of the faltering electric light that our lead figure finds amid the darkness, it becomes clear that ambience is paramount. Such high frequencies are handled impeccably and the ringing noises that send this nameless man into a daze are equally as piercing to those listening in their armchairs. From whirring fans and the stuttering to life of seemingly destroyed machinery, to the clanks of lifts and the howls of the creatures within the depths, atmosphere is the name of the game here.
Bass is not forgotten as the thumping, pulsing LFE that creeps into the mix pushes its way under the other sounds and holds there. The dialogue is perhaps the one area in which this mix is let down, not necessarily because it isn't crisp and clear, as is the usual bugbear, but more because it seems overlaid at times. There isn't much speech throughout the film, so someone had the bright idea of filming the dialogue sections twice, once for English and once for French. Generally this works to good effect, but there are moments when it seems as though it may not have been clear enough and thus it has been re-dubbed. Lip-synch matches but the emanating speech just seems a little far into the room and overly enunciated. It is hard to describe but still at times evident.
Not that this really detracts a great deal as there is so little dialogue. When weighed against the enveloping sound-scape and bubble like atmosphere created, this is a minor quibble. The cohesion of front and rear fields engenders a depth of sounds and the wonderful reverberations and echoing creates a distant and hollow feel to this underground labyrinth that simply has to be appreciated.
ExtrasFrench language version
In a move unlikely to please many, the original French language version of the film is available to watch, but only in 480p and with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Given how few moments actually contain dialogue and the quality of the image and sound of the English language version, to take those instances and put them through the same high definition transfer process would surely not have been too much to ask. As it is, this 480p iteration is by no means great even in comparison to other examples of the same definition, let alone the central film on this disc. Given the minimal difference in shot framing and the like, I can't see why anyone would endure through this when they have the option to watch it presented in glorious 1080p and with lossless sound.
VerdictEden Log is a real guilty pleasure of a disc. As a film, it is flawed in many ways and will likely split even those devoted to low budget science fiction cinema. To some it will likely appear a product of style over substance, interesting cinematography over well crafted plot exegesis. To others, perhaps those who were weaned on monetarily challenged 80s rip offs of The Terminator that were to be found gathering dust in a local video store, this will prove an easier watch. It won't square up to the very best the genre has to offer, but it has enough interesting themes and artistically striking shots to be worthy of a rent.
The disc itself is a fine presentation, both visually and aurally. The image relies heavily on contrast and strength of extremes, whilst the sonics instead push towards a more multi layered and tempered approach. Two different routes to the same end: a fine viewing experience. The film will divide opinions, I enjoyed it for what it was, much like I would an episode of The Outer Limits or a pulp novel. Take a quick look at that litmus test of film fans' reactions, the imdb, and you'll see this falls very much in the love it or loathe it category, the truth however is probably somewhere in between.
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