Silence DVD Review
PictureShot using the 35mm film format I can only assume, from the movie's 'fullscreen' presentation here, that a matted widescreen alternative was never commissioned. So here we just get an extremely lacklustre, grainy, video transfer depicted in non-anamorphic 1.33:1. Supposedly it's from a 'newly restored high-definition Toho transfer' - we're talking the same people who cleaned up the classic Seven Samurai - but unfortunately the magic worked here goes almost unnoticed. Perhaps Seven Samurai benefited from being monochrome, enabling much greater retention of detail and keen maintenance of contrast levels, but - for whatever reason - Silence looks pretty bad. Detail is never good, with softness prevalent throughout, a tolerable level of grain apparent during almost the entire runtime, as well as some truly terrible moments of visibly-changing contrast levels (we're talking single scenes, where the camera does not moves, but the image fluctuates visibly in terms of video tone). Black levels are pretty lame as well, which does not bode well for the darker sequences, and overall it is a disappointing rendition of this movie. That said, given the fact that it is some thirty-six years old and that it was obviously shot on a very limited budget, this is probably still the best we are ever likely to see from this movie.
SoundPresenting the movie's original mish-mash of Japanese and English dialogue with a Dolby Digital soundtrack, the DVD does not exactly excel in the audio department either. Although I don't know enough Japanese to criticise the coherence of that portion of the dialogue, the often-dubbed English sections (which suffer from horrendous lip-synch issues) are predominantly incoherent, the characters not helping the matter by mumbling. And it is a real shame, because the English subtitles are (obviously) only present on the Japanese dialogue bits, reverting to Japanese subtitles for the English segments, when really we can't understand what they are saying either. The score is awful, and does not exactly provide much with which the soundtrack can excel either, its twangy nature coming across as tinny and lacking in depth. There really is very little good to say about this track, but again it seems in line with the budget, age and quality of the movie itself.
ExtrasAlthough the disc itself is vanilla, the release comes with a nice little booklet about the history of the production, which is probably more than you would expect for such a relatively unknown movie.
VerdictI realise that the appeal of this movie may be distinctly limited, and after close inspection it is easy to see why, but if you boil it down to just the bare cultural ingredients, there is quite a lot of historical depth to this production, revealing the truth about a period in Japan's history that everybody would probably prefer to forget. The movie comes complete with a terrible 'fullscreen' transfer, lacklustre audio and bare bones, but if you're interested in the subject matter, or want to see a poor-man's alternative to the likes of The Last Temptation of Christ, The Devils, and even Apocalypse Now, you might consider renting this release. Certainly fans are likely to be elated by the fact that it has finally made it to DVD, whatever state it might be in.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.99
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