Molokai: The Story of Father Damien (1999)

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Released 18-Jul-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-David Wenham, Live At The Nova
Featurette-Audience Questions With David Wenham
Featurette-Making Of
Notes-Director's Vision with Paul Cox
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-The Tracker; The Cat's Meow; The Navigators; Nine Queens
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 117:21 (Case: 122)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (97:59) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Paul Cox
Madman Entertainment
Starring David Wenham
Peter O'Toole
Derek Jacobi
Leo McKern
Kris Kristofferson
Sam Neill
Aden Young
Tom Wilkinson
lice Krige
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music Paul Grabowsky
Godfried Van De Perre

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Set in Hawaii, in the late nineteenth century, Molokai: The Story Of Father Damien tells the story of the Belgian national hero Father Damien (David Wenham) and his efforts at the leper colony established on the island of Molokai. Honestly, there's not a lot of plot to discuss here without totally ruining the story for anyone who wants to watch it. The film is really just a collection of sprawling events, and there is little to no dramatic tension.

     The important thing to note about the film is its themes: the importance of human contact; the importance of faith to the sick and the dying; dying with dignity; and the worth of personal sacrifice. This all sounds like pretty bleak stuff, and really it is. There is no entertainment value in Molokai. It's a true story, and one that is worth knowing about, but much of the film is made up of scenes of human suffering, and the makeup effects are quite believable.

     While all performances are excellent, particularly Wenham, and the film honours its subject well, it is truly uncomfortable viewing, and has an eerie real-life banality to it that somehow robs it of its dramatic punch. In some respects, that makes the film more haunting, but I doubt I will be watching this one again.

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Transfer Quality


     The picture transfer is far from perfect. It is presented in 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced, which is the original aspect ratio. But it suffers from a lot of graininess, and very poor shadow detail.

     Colours are muted, lacking any real vibrancy, which I suspect is intentional. There seems to have been very little use of artificial lighting, relying predominantly on 'natural' lighting effects, and the grey drabness of the island is intensified by this technique.

     Aside from graininess and poor shadow detail, there were little in the way of MPEG artefacts. There was no aliasing that I noticed, little background noise, and nothing in the way of MPEG blocking.

     The dual layer pause is at 97:59, during a scene change. It is not disruptive.

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


     There is only an English 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo track.

     This is a generally clear track, with good directional cues and effective ambience, particularly given the harsh wind conditions on the island.

     However, I noticed there were also some rather poor audio sync problems. After watching the extras I discovered that this was not due to post-production ADR problems, but actually the way in which sound is distorted in high winds. The scene in which I noticed it the most (32:16 - 35:22) was filmed out on a bluff in high wind, which accounts for the muted dialogue and the sync problem. Sometimes, too, lines are mumbled or distorted and are hard to understand. One such instance of this was the scene at 102:52.

     On the whole, though, aside from difficulties with accents, one can generally understood what is being said, and these faults are with the print from which the DVD was mastered, not the mastering process itself.

     There was no subwoofer use.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



     The menus are all 16x9 enhanced with the theme music playing in 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo.

Interview With David Wenham (18:33)

     After the preview screening of the film at the Nova Cinema in Carlton, Melbourne, Wenham was interviewed by Lawrie Zion. This is quite informative on the process of acting as Wenham sees is, and the difficulties involved in making the film. Presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with a 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo soundtrack.

Audience Questions With David Wenham (19:19)

     After the interview, the forum was opened up to questions from the audience. There are a series of 16 questions with Wenham's responses. Presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with a 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo soundtrack.

Making Of Documentary (38:33)

     A documentary detailing all the difficulties in filming this project. Includes interviews with cast and crew members. Presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, with a 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo soundtrack.

Trailer (1:30)

     Presented in 1.78:1, non-16x9 enhanced, with a 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo soundtrack. The picture here is clearer than that of the transfer of the feature.

Director's Vision

     Six stills documenting Paul Cox's intentions for the film when he set out to make it -- largely what he believes the film to be about.


     Stills detailing information on the lead cast and crew: David Wenham; Kate Ceberano; Sir Derek Jacobi; Alice Krige; Kris Kristofferson; Leo McKern; Sam Neill; Peter O'Toole; Tom Wilkinson; Aden Young; Paul Cox; John Briley; Nino Martinetti.


     Trailers for four upcoming independent film releases: The Tracker; The Cat's Meow; The Navigators; and Nine Queens. All trailers are 16x9 enhanced with 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo soundtracks.

R4 vs R1

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

     The R1 release of this disc is non-16x9 enhanced and got quite a poor write up in Widescreen Review. While my own assessment of the quality of the R4 mastering places the R4 disc only marginally better than its R1 counterpart, it is nevertheless a positive difference. Plus, the R4 release has all the extras which the R1 release does not have. This makes the R4 release the clear winner.


     Molokai: The Story of Father Damien is bleak stuff and definitely not a beer and pizza movie. I can't say whether I really liked it or not, but I felt it was an important story to tell. It got under my skin in some senses, but it lacked real dramatic punch as well.

     The picture quality is not very good, suffering from excessive graininess and poor shadow detail.

     Audio quality is acceptable, as all sync problems were faults with the print and not the DVD mastering.

     The extras are excellent, providing good insight into the story behind the film and the apparent nightmare of the process of making the film.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Edward McKenzie (I am Jack's raging bio...)
Saturday, March 01, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD-RV31A-S, using S-Video output
DisplayBeko 28" (16x9). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationMarantz SR7000
SpeakersEnergy - Front, Rear, Centre & Subwoofer

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