Belle (Blu-ray) (2013)

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Released 10-Sep-2014

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Featurette-Promotional
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2013
Running Time 103:53
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Amma Asante
Studio
Distributor
Icon Entertainment Starring Tom Wilkinson
Gugu Mbartha-Raw
Sarah Gadon
Matthew Goode
Miranda Richardson
James Norton
Tom Felton
Sam Reid
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Rachel Portman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     It is good to see a costume drama which although incorporating the usual themes of romance and drama also includes significant social commentary and revolves around an important time in the history of Great Britain. This film is by British Writer/Director Amma Asante who although not credited with the writing here (by decree of the Writer's Guild) she supposedly played a large part in the screenplay. The story is loosely based on some real people and events although much of it is fictional. It was inspired by a portrait which exists of a mulatto girl and an Anglo Saxon girl who lived in Lord Mansfield's house. Lord Mansfield was certainly the Lord Chief Justice in the 1780s and made a critical court case decision in the process which led to the abolition of slavery in the UK. Beyond those facts most of the story seems to be fictional or at least conjecture. This is not meant to be criticism of the film, I am just trying to point out that the film is fiction based around some historical facts rather than a historical re-enactment.

     The movie tells the story of the illegitimate daughter of a Royal Navy officer, Captain Sir John Lindsay (Matthew Goode) who he fathers whilst in the West Indies with a coloured woman. When the woman dies he decides to formally adopt the girl and takes her home to England. As this occurs in the 1780s, his decision is quite out of the ordinary and not one easily accepted by society at the time. The girl is left to live with her father's uncle, Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) who is the Lord Chief Justice of England. He is obviously an important member of the aristocracy. He also cares for another ward, Elizabeth Murray (Sarah Gadon), the legitimate daughter of his brother. The mulatto girl is named Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbartha-Raw) and is brought up as a member of the family, although due to her origins is not allowed to attend some social functions. She and Elizabeth become very close as they grow up together like sisters. Due to Elizabeth's father's lack of funds and Dido's background neither is seen by society as a great match and they struggle to attract appropriate suitors. Eventually, they are pursued by the sons of Lady Ashford (Miranda Richardson), Oliver (James Norton) and James (Tom Felton), however they must decide whether their motives are love and marriage or something else. Also, Lord Mansfield takes on a student, the son of a local vicar, John Davinier (Sam Reid) who is attracted to Belle however his low birth stands in their way.

Meanwhile, a slave trading ship, the Zong, is going through a legal battle trying to get compensation from an insurer for loss of slaves during the voyage. Initially, the insurers refused to pay and after a number of court cases an appeal lands in front of the Chief Justice. Common law at the time held that slaves could be insured like any other cargo and claims could be made if those slaves were lost during the voyage. The point which comes before the Chief Justice is whether or not the death of the slaves was accidental, unavoidable or intentional. This portion of the plot is real and was certainly a case overseen by Lord Mansfield while he was Chief Justice. The movie follows both the romantic story and the story of this case as they become intertwined.

     This is a high quality production with some excellent acting, great costumes and authentic sets and locations. It is well directed, telling the story well and engaging its audience. The only question mark in my mind is how plausible the story is given the time in which it is set, especially in terms of Dido's ability to influence the Chief Justice. Regardless, it is a good story which intertwines the usual costume drama romantic plot with some real moments in the history of slaving in Great Britain. The score is also wonderful by Oscar winner Rachel Portman, whose credits include Chocolat and The Cider House Rules.

    Fans of costume dramas and those interested in this part of history should certainly check this film out.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The video quality is very good on this Blu-ray version.

     The feature is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio which is the original aspect ratio. It is 1080p.

     The picture was quite sharp and clear throughout without having the stunning clarity of the best Blu-rays. Shadow detail was also very good.

     The colour is rich and deep presenting the sets and costumes in an excellent way.

     There was some minor aliasing here and there.

     There are subtitles in English for the hearing impaired which were clear and easy to read. They use multiple colours to denote different speakers.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio quality is very good but this is not really a film to show off your home theatre.

     This disc contains an English soundtrack in DTS HD-MA 5.1.

     Dialogue was clear and easy to understand throughout.

     The music is marvellous, sumptuous and well suited to the movie. It sounds great on this Blu-ray and is the highlight of the aural landscape.

     The surround speakers were used well considering the style of film, highlighting the music and providing atmosphere such as during the fireworks.

     The subwoofer was used mostly for music and some other mild effects.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     One minor extra only.

Menu

     The menu features music and motion.

The Portrait (4:23)

     Promo featurette with some scenes from the film and interview snippets with cast and crew. Nothing very exciting. Talks about the painting which inspired the story.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region A Blu-ray has a significantly bigger set of extras including a theatrical trailer, gallery and five featurettes making it clearly the better version.

Summary

    A high quality costume drama incorporating historical events in the fictional story.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extra is pretty minor.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDSONY BDP-S760 Blu-ray, using HDMI output
DisplaySharp LC52LE820X Quattron 52" Full HD LED-LCD TV . Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt into amplifier. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationMarantz SR5005
SpeakersMonitor Audio Bronze 2 (Front), Bronze Centre & Bronze FX (Rears) + Sony SAW2500M Subwoofer

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