PictureCorrectly presented at 2.40:1 and coded with the AVC MPEG4 codec, I'm happy to say that the picture quality on the Blu-ray disc is right up there with the quality of the film it portrays.
Bleaker than a visit to the dentist, East Germany is shown as most of us believed it to be. The streets are dull and colourless and the inside of buildings are drab and devoid of any artwork and paintings that may upset the then government.
Blacks are inky and deep and shadow detail in the many night scenes is in abundance. Skin tones are spot on and the director has performed wonders showing what a winters day in Europe can do for the skin...
Being such a recent film, the source print is in pristine condition and there isn't a mark or scratch to be seen anywhere. This added to the enjoyment of the movie and gave the picture quality an overall more cinematic feel to it.
There are one or two very minor incidents of video noise, but I picked these up going from a light scene to a dark one - and to be honest, they lasted milliseconds.
This is as good a picture that I have seen on a Blu-ray disc from any studio and Sony should be congratulated for the effort.
However, for some strange reason, I had a few problems with the playback of this disc in my Samsung Blu-ray player. First of all, the disc would lose sync with my screen and I would have sound but no picture. On the third attempt, I managed to get it to play with relatively few problems, though it did stutter a few times on long pans that had movement in them also. May be my disc, it may not. This disc would not play in my UK PS3 so is locked to Region A only.
SoundWe are offered two German soundtrack on this disc. One is in Dolby Digital 5.1 and the other is a lossless PCM track. The movie has not been dubbed into English. For me, it's essential to watch a film in it's native language. This ensures that the emotion on the face of the actors matches the emotion in the voice - absolutely fundamental with a film like The Lives Of Others.
The movie is hesitantly dialogue based and I glad to report that the centre channel is crisp and clear. The surrounds are barely used throughout the entire film - not even for ambience. The LFE track is used very sparingly, mainly during the brief moments that the haunting score bursts into life.
Those looking for a film to test your system will have to look elsewhere I'm afraid. Though there's no complaints from me as the soundtrack is more than up to the task it's been given.
ExtrasThe Lives Of Others includes all of the extras that are on the the Reg 1 DVD version - but sadly, there are no Blu-ray only exclusives.
First up is a directors commentary from Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck. Speaking in perfect English, it adds to the experience of the movie. It's also the complete history of Eastern Europe in just over 2 hours. I found it engaging and it made a refreshing change from listening to directors do nothing but pat themselves on the back.
There is also a 30 minute interview with the director which carries on from where he left of on the commentary. This is however, in his native German with English subtitles.
There is a 20 minute vignette entitled the making of the lives of others. This introduces us to the cast and opens up the characters a little more. It's here that we find out that one of the actors, Ulrich Muhe, was actually investigated by the stasi himself when he was younger.
There are also 7 deleted scenes, lasting a total of 9 minutes - and for the first time ever, I was left wondering why they had been left out. The scenes do bring more to the main characters though they don't change the plot - and wouldn't have changed the outcome of the story.
All of these extras are presented in standard definition but are in anamorphic widescreen.
Though relatively few in number, the extras on this disc really do add to the experience of the movie. It really feels like, as you are watching them, that they weren't made for publicity purposes, but were actually made to give you, the viewer, a better insight in to how the movie was made and it's main characters. Top stuff
VerdictEasy one this. The Lives Of Others is an absolutely stunning piece of cinema. As a film, it will hold out to multiple viewing simply so you can sit back and admire the actors plying their trade.
As a Blu-ray disc, it's a huge leap forward to what we have been offered recently. The picture and sound quality are exemplary and I found it really hard to fault them. I was hooked from the first minute to 138th and not once did I tire. It's a very dialogue heavy film and has no English soundtrack. The dialogue moves along at a cracking pace and, because of this, you might miss something and be compelled to rewind to read it again.
Backed up by some superb extras that only add to the whole experience, I really can not recommend this disc highly enough. Though for those of you that are not fans of world cinema, there is a planned remake coming out of Hollywood with one of two reputable directors and you might want to wait for that version...personally, I wouldn't.
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