PictureMother comes to Blu-ray courtesy of CJ Entertainment with a 1080p resolution, encoded using the AVC codec and framed within a theatrically correct 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The disc itself is region free.
For such a low key affair, this film has been afforded a great transfer. Contrast is strong, with blacks being deep and suitably inky. The palette is of a reasonably organic nature, with exterior shots often showing more richness than those scenes filmed within interiors. It remains somewhat muted, but when impact is needed the required vividness comes to the fore. It is actually a fairly complex film in terms of cinematography, and DOP Kyung-Pyo Hong's framing and use of subtle shading thankfully hasn't been let down by this disc. The stunning wide vista shots have a great depth of field and retain detail even when viewing huge swathes of scenery.
Clothing and textures are similarly well handled, with the patterned fabric of the mother's jacket taking on a pleasingly different sheen when seen in varying environments and degrees of light. There is a very slight softness to some shots, but I would wager that this may be more a result of the filming than the transfer as for the most part the delineation is of a high standard. What could be seen as a drab image is in fact complex and subtle, with shading that shows no obvious signs of banding. Skin tones are consistent and solid shadow detail helps draw the viewer adeptly into the murky world of small town secrets. A fine transfer that has no striking flaws and a well realised intricate image.
Note: For those with constant-image-height set-ups, you'll be pleased to know that the subtitles appear within the frame.
SoundThe disc contains only one audio option to choose - Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.
The template for this film's sound arrangement is laid out early, with a clear blueprint of minimal surround usage, but clear and sharp fronts that push into the room. The cutting of the herbs is one such example, with the action being heightened against the relative quiet for artistic means. This could be seen as a front heavy mix but in truth it's probably better described as subdued, with carefully placed and emphasised noises outranking an overall assault of the senses. Ambience is key to this approach and the score by Byong-woo Lee is perhaps the standout feature of this disc's aural offerings, it is brought to life superbly, being both expansive and warm. The high frequencies of the guitar strings being plucked reverberate and swell, avoiding any potential tinniness.
Bass provides some weight to the music, but is reserved and rarely is used to aid the film itself. Dialogue is clear and very consistent, with no fluctuations. The mix won't overwhelm viewers, with its limited use of surround speakers and lack of low frequency impact moments, but it is a fine example of a restrained accompaniment to a thoughtful film, making crisp speech and evocative music the paramount objectives.
ExtrasThere is a wealth of extras on this disc, but unfortunately they do not carry any English subtitles/names, so I'm unable to comment or list them individually. Those capable of speaking Korean will have the pleasure of enjoying the director and cast commentary, numerous interviews, a 90 minute behind-the-scenes/making of. To a certain extent, even those who fail to understand what is being said will at least get a vague idea of the significance of the deleted scenes, be able to tell what is going on in the trailer and happily view the production photos. It's a comprehensive set of extras, and as such must score highly, but this rating comes with a caveat for those without knowledge of the Korean language.
VerdictMother is a thriller of a different ilk to many, being slow, methodical and packing a significant emotional punch. It is the kind of film many hope Joon-ho Bong will continue to make, eschewing the more mainstream bigger budget popcorn munchers like The Host. It is multi-layered and brimming with intrigue and suspicion, yet manages to find some darkly absurd humour in amongst the heavier themes.
The disc is a fine representation of Bong and cinematographer Kyung-Pyo Hong's vision, holding great depth to the frame and containing a large amount of detail in its fine palette. The audio isn't likely to bowl anyone over, but it handles the important areas of dialogue and music extremely well. The extras won't be of much use to non Korean speakers but they are at least a sign of how much we can hopefully come to expect from CJ Entertainment in future, preferably with the added bonus of English subtitles. As a package, this is thoroughly recommended for not just fans of foreign cinema, but those who crave more depth from their mystery thrillers.
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