This DVD has already been released in both Regions 1 and 2. With the new release in Region 4, we now have a situation where all three releases are completely different, principally in the package of the extras each provides.
In comparison to the Region 1 release, the Region 4 version misses out on:
- Featurette documentary extra "Mon Paradis, Der Winterpalast" (48 mins, subtitled in English). This documentary focuses on interviews of the Hermitage staff and curators, discussing their associations with the museum and their collective passion for its art collection. Judging by the Region 1 reviews published, this documentary is not nearly as interesting or informative as the "In One Breath" documentary.
- Featurette interview extracts with the director, producer, cinematographer and production supervisor (6 mins). This featurette is compiled as marketing sound bites, interspersed with extended scenes from the film. It is unclear whether these interview bites might just be extracts from the interviews featured in the "In One Breath" documentary, or different. But in any event, this is an extremely short featurette once you separate the interviews from the film footage and so cannot be considered any loss at all, given we already get extended interview sequences with all these people in the "In One Breath" documentary.
- Filmographies screens (director Aleksandr Sokurov and actor Sergei Dontsov only).
In comparison to the Region 2 release, the Region 4 version misses out on:
- Featurette: "Hubert Robert – A Fortunate Life" (27 mins). This is a short documentary film by director Aleksandr Sokurov, from 1996, detailing the life and work of an 18th century French painter named Hubert Robert, who has many works in the Hermitage. Whilst not directly relevant to Russian Ark, this short film obviously serves as a precursor to the project, showing Sukurov's love for the museum and its art collection.
- Filmographies screens (for Aleksandr Sokurov and cinematographer Tilman Büttner only).
- Production notes by Hermitage Museum director Mikhail Piotrovsky.
HOWEVER, note that in comparison to both the Region 4 and Region 1 releases, the Region 2 release shoots itself in the foot completely:
- it has only a Russian Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track (no Russian Dolby Digital 5.1), and
- there is no audio commentary by producer Jens Meurer.
Note also that in comparison to the new Region 4 release, both Regions 1 and 2 now miss out on:
- Audio commentary by Australian film theorist, Dr Barbara Creed, and
- Featurette "Museum of Memory Illustrated Lecture" by Australian lecturer, Dr Christopher Marshall (45 mins).
It would have been nice if Region 4 had received the additional featurette documentary "Mon Paradis, Der Winterpalast", or the Sokurov short film "Hubert Robert – A Fortunate Life". However it would appear that the additional audio commentary and lecture featurette we receive in Region 4 more than makes up by value the former of these two omissions, and the latter is only an unrelated short anyway, and more just in the "nice to see" category than anything to cry over. Similarly, the filmographies screens and production notes that the other regions receive is no major loss.
You can make up your own mind with this one, but I am calling this a Region 4 winner, given our extras package appears to offer, on balance, better all-round value and insight.