'Un Prophete' is presented in widescreen 1.78:1 with MPEG-4 AVC 1080p coding.
This transfer is highly stylised and contains a lot of texture and a fair granular presence. This gives the feeling of gritty toughness, perfectly capturing the mood of the prison; it's almost threatening on occasion. While this effect took a little getting used to, it really grew on me and definitely suited the tone of the movie. There is plenty of fine detail on show, such as on the scarred and beaten body of Malik (including his grubby and broken finger nails) or the botched plaster job of a moved towel rail in the holding area. The cell walls also expose wear and tear through their well painted surfaces, as well as plenty of graffiti. The many tattoos of the various inmates are also clearly visible.
Facial close-ups can be a revelation, especially those of Ceser in the bright settings of the exercise yard. His well worn visage is crisscross of lines and liver spots, his short beard and piercing eyes sharply defined. It's even possible to see the pock marks in his nose on some occasions. Skin tonality is spot on, perfectly recreating the various ethnic groups who co-habit in captivity. The bruises, cuts and half choked purple faces, all have a stunning natural quality about them. In the setting of the prison workshop, fabrics are clearly visible and display texture, as do the ancient metal sewing machines, with legible signs on the walls. Outside, the visibly increases even more, with worn buildings and other scenery providing lots to admire. The majority of the scenes exude depth, including some wonderfully rendered panoramic vistas.
There are some beautiful early morning and late evening shots, which bring some colour to the palette. As a whole though, the palette is heavily muted, only really allowing cool blues and shades of grey/green to penetrate. While this type of colour scheme is never vibrant, it does feel naturalistic and adds an air of believability to the entire piece. The contrast ratio is very strong indeed, producing some cavernous blacks (such as the pupils of Malik), which Audiard uses to great effect to conceal some of the happenings in the prison. Shadow detail is sublime, with all of the dark corners of the shady cells and corridors hiding no detail in the gloom. However, the outdoor scenes are intentionally overblown, which can prevent the image from reaching the peak of sharpness and definition.
Although this is a very impressive transfer, the nature of the source material prevents this disc from attaining the heights which BD is capable of. That being said I highly recommend this transfer and it scores a high eight.
'Un Prophete' comes with a dts HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track.
The entire presentation is most definitely front heavy, with plenty of activity across the front channels. Closing cells doors are granted a nice clunky thud and the noise of conversations and television sets in the adjoining cells provide nice instances of directionality. During the busy workshops scenes, the whir of machines can be heard from all channels. The same can be said from the portions which feature rain, which falls around the listening position. There are a couple of action scenes which really dominate the soundstage, such as those featuring gun shots, and are really quite shocking when compared to the rest of the more subdued portions.
The all important vocals are crystal clear, locked to the centre channel and never difficult to follow. Everything from whispered conversations to the loud gasps of air from an almost suffocated unfortunate, are delivered with perfect pitch and tone. I have to admit that I was a little underwhelmed by the surround involvement as a whole, a fact which is probably due to careful sound engineering (which is evident near the close of the movie). The same can be said for subwoofer activity, which is largely dormant for the duration (although this channel does provide some immense impact in the car scene near the end of the movie). The surround channels get a reasonable workout but largely produce simple ambient effects, such as the chatter of a crowd, the twittering of birds or the sounds of the warden's announcements over the prison's PA system.
The score is very subtle in the beginning and later begins to swell and come the forefront, especially during the tense and exciting portions of the movie. While it's largely an original composition, there are a couple of rap tunes and other inclusions which are more bombastic and really bring the soundstage to life. Overall the score sits a little low (and almost delicately) in the mix, with adequate surround bleed and bass interjection when permitted (such as during the “hash stash” scene).
This is a very solid track but the director's vision and choices, I believe, prevent it from making it into the upper echelons of scoring.
Optimum have provided a good selection of extras on this release, with the only major omission being a commentary track. All of the features are disappointingly only in standard definition but thankfully English subtitles are included.
Deleted Scenes (SD) - Included here are four deleted scenes with optional director's commentary. The first is a scene featuring Reyeb's ghost. The second takes a look at Jordi the Gypsy. The third features Rayad. Ceser is the focus in the fourth. None add a whole lot to the main plotline (and seem very similar to the included scenes) but the director's commentary definitely adds insight.
A Prophet - Revealed (SD 14mins) - This feature elucidates on the story which the movie is trying to tell. Audiard provides insight through interview portions, as does Rahim. The characters, plot and direction discussed in detail. The piece is interspersed with scenes from the movie. Interesting and worth a watch.
Screen Tests of Tahar Rahim (SD 4mins) - As the name implies, these are the screen tests of the star of the movie. Interesting to watch but nothing special.
Rehersals (SD 8mins) - This feature comprises some semi-improvised scenes, with the actors in character but out of costume.
“Derriere Les Barreaux” - from Antonin Peret Jak (SD 1hr12mins) - This lengthy feature takes a look at the making of 'Un Prophet'. Featuring tonnes of backstage footage and interviews with everyone involved (including some real life jail birds), this is a very comprehensive documentary. It features PIP shots of what the camera in shot sees and is very well put together in general. Covering every minute detail in a “fly on the wall” style, this is easily the best additional supplement on the disc.
“Un Prophete A Chatenay” (SD 23mins) - This mini-doc charts the movie's premiere at the town of Chatenay, where many of the actors who feature in the movie live. All of the extras, who only had minor parts in the movie and have since returned to their normal lives, are interviewed and invited along to the screening. This is worth a watch and provides interesting insight into those who helped make the movie a success.
Trailer - Included here, for your viewing pleasure, is a high definition trailer for the movie.
'Un Prophete' was released in 2009 and was written and directed by Jacques Audiard. The movie charts the prison term of a young man named Malik. Beginning his term as a narrow minded, uneducated pseudo-criminal, he rapidly evolves through his propensity for learning. Climbing the prison ranks, Malik finds himself in a position of power through his association with the local mafia. A mish-mash of cultural heritage, Malik uses his natural instincts and hard earned knowledge and savvy to make the most of his unusual situation. While not preaching a message to live a good life and love thy neighbour etc., the movie provides, at its core, a tremendous sociological case study, which shows that one's instincts and ability to learn/reason are our most powerful tools for survival. Receiving the top prizes at Cannes and an Oscar nomination, I would highly recommend this movie to everyone.
The transfer is very solid and stylish. While this provides a definite change to the standard cinematic presentations, it does somewhat restrict this disc's ability to shine. That being said, on occasion it can look stunning and overall this is a beautiful looking disc. The surround mix is more than adequate and has its moments to impress but, like the transfer, careful directorial choices prevent it from making it into the top scoring bracket. The extras portion is well fleshed out and contains some worthwhile additional supplements. Overall this is an impressive disc, a perfect complement to a very impressive movie.
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