PictureThis is a standard dual layer 9GB DVD offering a good 1.78:1 MPEG-2 anamorphic presentation. On the whole the transfer is acceptable enough in these days of high definition but that's not to say that this disc does not show up some inadequacies of that particular format. First up is enhancement which is pretty much across the board; in bright external shots the buildings along the city streets of Amsterdam all exhibit that haloing against the brighter skies, people against their surroundings and even in some darker scenes still this haloing is more than apparent.
Grain is prevalent throughout but this is not a hindrance to the presentation itself as it's no more than one would expect from a film to video transfer. It does become more apparent in some of the darker scenes, specifically when Onno and his son Quentin are breaking into the Holy shrine at night and on these occassions it does become a little distracting.
Blacks hold up remarkably well, in the afore mentioned break in scene apart from the excessive grain there's good shadow detail still apparent on the artefacts within the shrine, the artistry on the walls and the folds of material. At the other end of the scale whites are pristine with no blooming, no encroachment of their surrounding areas and the skies particularly pleasant in the frame.
That frame is detailed enough, again for a DVD, with the streets of Amsterdamn or the aprtments of Max and Onno coming across particularly well. It's still a rather flat image though, that wow factor certainly resigned to the more premium releases of BluRay. The encoding is ok apart from the aforementioned enhancement, apart from that there's no noise, blocking or gradient anomalies especially in those darker scenes so that in itself is a blessing.
SoundThis is a Dolby Digital 2.0 affair which spreads out nicely enough to your surrounds if you apply DPl-IIx. On the whole though this is a frontal based track and is not any the worse for it for this film does not demand excessive surround use, steerage from front to rear or visa versa again not needed. There is some ambiance but very little as you could imagine.
All of the work is done up front. There's some panning from right to left, or from centre to right, mainly for traffic or the flight of a Raven, other than that though the main thrust of this material is centre based from the many important conversations which continue throughout this film. That dialogue comes across well and strong apart from a couple of instances when Stephen Fry's words seem to be mumbled somewhat. It's not drowned out by an aggressive backing score or thunderous LFE so I can only presume at this point that he was in fact mumbling at the time.
LFE is non existent, again it's never really needed and it's lack of presence does not in anyway detract from this film. Higher string tones of violins and cello come across strong and bright rounding off what is an acceptable audio offering, albeit one which does not fire on all cylinders.
ExtrasThis disc is screaming out for a commentary by the director and or writer but alas none is to be found here. What we do have is a few deleted scenes, a special effects 'overview' and the original trailer.
The special effects section is not really worth looking at simply being a selection of scenes shown in blue screen and then the final presentation on screen, There's no voice over nor any explanation of what the process entails.
There are a number of deleted scenes which seem to be final cuts with post processing applied and in all honesty I found it difficult to see why these were not included in the final film, all are quite pertinent either fleshing out some of the back story, adding scenes which are mentioned in the book but never quite made their way to celluloid. Some scenes explain a few inconsistencies so again I would say that I felt these needed to be in the final release. The marks are normally higher than I would usually give but I do feel these scenes are quite important and should really be watched.
VerdictSo what are we left with, a DVD release which is one of the few titles I am glad these days has fallen into my lap. It was a breath of fresh air to view this exploration of the human condition and soul without having to wade through the latest special effects or over indulgent actors plying their trade.
The story is strong enough and propelled well by the director, it is the acting that takes centre stage though and these people are a joy to look at whilst they are up there making you believe in the underlying story. That story though will appeal on many levels and the level at which you decide to watch it will to some degree rest on your own personal belief and faith.
Eureka score again in bringing us these gems to our screen and any lover of cinema should continue to support them to the best of their cash flow. Some of their releases you will enjoy, some will be best left to others but their catalogue is expanding nicely so there should be something in there for everyone. As for this disc, well I'm glad it's now in my collection and it's one I shall certainly be going back to look at. As such I can only recommend this.
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