The Woman in the Fifth (La femme du Veme) (2011)

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Released 20-Jun-2012

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Featurette-Making Of
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Madman Propaganda x 4
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2011
Running Time 80:15
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (56:23) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Pawel Pawlikowski

Madman Entertainment
Starring Ethan Hawke
Kristin Scott Thomas
Joanna Kulig
Samir Guesmi
Delphine Chuillot
Julie Papillon
Geoffrey Carey
Mamadou Minte
Mohamed Aroussi
Jean-Louis Cassarino
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Max de Wardener

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     American author Tom Ricks (Ethan Hawke) travels to Paris to try to reconcile with his French wife Nathalie (Delphine Chuillot) and their six year old daughter Chloe. Tom has been “sick” for some time, but now wants a chance to reunite his family. Nathalie, however, wants no part of Tom; she is obviously scared of him and calls the police, citing an order restraining Tom from approaching them. Cast into the street, Tom falls asleep on a bus and has his luggage stolen. Destitute, Tom enters a sleazy café / hotel where he is given a room by Sezer (Samir Guesmi), then later a job. Tom is required to sit in a room watching a closed circuit TV, vetting those who enter a building; he does not know what Sezer is doing but it is highly unlikely to be legal.

     Denied access to his daughter, Tom starts to wait outside her school, taking the chance to talk to her when he can. Invited by a bookseller to a literary party, he meets Margit (Kristin Scott Thomas) and is instantly captivated. She is the woman of his dreams: intelligent, passionate, articulate, the perfect muse of an author with writer’s block, and they commence an intense affair. At the same time he becomes intimate with Ania (Joanna Kulig), the Polish waitress at the café and Sezer’s girlfriend. But things are not quite what they seem, and a murder in the hotel commences a chain of events that has unexpected consequences.

     The Woman in the Fifth (La femme du Veme) is directed by Pawel Pawlikowski whose previous films, such as Last Resort (2000) and My Summer of Love (2004) were interesting, character driven pieces. The Woman in the Fifth is similar, a slow building psychological thriller centred on a fine performance by Ethan Hawke. He is our narrator and we see the events unfold solely from his point of view, a point of view that may, or may not, be the whole story. Hawke may not be the most animated of actors, but in this film a minimalist performance is just what is required and he is excellent, taking a character not dissimilar to Snow Falling on Cedars (1999) or Before Sunset (2004). There is a lot going on in his mind, and Hawke plays it out with looks and glances. Kristin Scott Thomas as the enigmatic Margit is also good; she is sexy, passionate and intelligent, but is she real or a fantasy? Joanna Kulig also makes the most of her role as the Polish waitress.

     The Woman in the Fifth could be called a European art film. There are numerous long slow shots and the camera often has its focus on an inanimate object in the foreground, such as a tree or wall, with the background and the actors deliberately indistinct; pause at 20:19 for a good example. Indeed, much of the film is deliberately soft and muted, which makes the sequences with Margit very, very different; for example, the vibrant image with black and red colours in her bathroom at 42:37. The film also avoids quick cutting, and only resorts to hand held cameras in the sequence in the Police station, giving this sequence a feel of urgency.

     The Woman in the Fifth is a slowly building psychological thriller that arrives at an intriguing, tense climax. I enjoyed this director’s My Summer of Love and if you have seen that film, or even if you haven’t, The Woman in the Fifth will reward those prepared to give something a little unusual a go.

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Transfer Quality


     The Woman in the Fifth is presented in a ratio of 1.85:1, the original ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced.

     As noted in the review, a lot of the film has a deliberate soft focus but it can be sharp and detailed when the filmmaker requires it, such as the scenes in the forest or with Margit. Colours are muted and dull; again this is a deliberate contrast (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) to the vibrancy of the colours when Tom is with Margit, a hint by the filmmakers that this life is a different, fantasy, world. Blacks are solid but the softness in the print means that shadow detail can be lost. Skin tones are not bad, contrast and brightness consistent.

     Marks and scratches are absent but the film does not seem to have a high bitrate; for example there was frequent motion blur and aliasing on vertical surfaces (see 18:19 for one example) but it was generally quite minor. There was major shimmer in the closing credits however.

     There are English subtitles for the French dialogue. They are in a clear white font and contained no obvious spelling or grammatical errors.

     The layer change at 56:23 resulted in a slight pause.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio is a choice of the original French or an English dub, both Dolby Digital 5.1 running at 448 Kbps.

     In reality, the original French audio is a mixture of French, English, and a little Polish as well, the characters speaking the language the scene requires. While the audio tracks are 5.1 mixes, this are not required as this is a film of silences and dialogue, with little for the surrounds to do. Dialogue is clear and easy to understand; the surrounds only in play for ambient effects and music. The sub-woofer added a little bass to the music and helped increase the tension in a couple of places.

     As the two main actors are native English speakers, the English dub is better than most.

     The music by Max de Wardener provides effective support for the moods of the film, often using a single piano to underscore the visuals. The song sung by Ania is also a beautiful moment.

     Lip synchronisation is fine in the French track. In the English dub it is as one would expect; it is not too bad, but it is obvious they are not speaking English.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


The Making of The Woman in the Fifth (23:21)

     Consists of behind the scenes footage, a lot of film footage and interviews with Pawel Pawlikowski and cast Ethan Hawke and Kristin Scott Thomas about the film including intentions and character. There is little structure and it is not all that interesting. In French and English with white burnt in English subtitles for the French.

Theatrical Trailer (1:30)

Madman Propaganda

     Trailers for other films from Madman: Sarah’s Key (1:52), Submarine (1:55), The Hunter (1:45) and The Future (2:27).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region 1 US DVD will be released 18/9/2012, and seems to have the same specifications and extras as this Region 4 release. The Region 2 UK release is listed as having cast and crew interviews, but not the making of. If this is the same as the Region B UK Blu-ray, the interview is a 13 minute interview with director Pawel Pawlikowski. Take your pick, really. Call it a draw.


     The Woman in the Fifth is an intriguing psychological thriller that builds to a tense climax and is grounded by the fine performance of Ethan Hawke. The film will reward those prepared to give something a little unusual a go.

     The video is acceptable, the audio fine, the extra OK.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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