Shakespeare in Love (Superbit) (1998)

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Released 14-Jul-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Dolby Digital Trailer-City
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1998
Running Time 118:37
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By John Madden

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Gwyneth Paltrow
Geoffrey Rush
Joseph Fiennes
Tom Wilkinson
Judi Dench
Martin Clunes
Simon Callow
Imelda Staunton
Colin Firth
Ben Affleck
Rupert Everett
Case Amaray-Opaque-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Stephen Warbeck

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/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 English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

"It's like trying to pick a lock with a wet herring".

    Shakespeare In Love is a mesmerising film. The fact that it won seven Academy Awards (namely Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Original Music and both Best Actress awards - Leading and Supporting) on its theatrical release is testament to the truly masterful attention to detail across every aspect of this treasure. The film is not a biography of young William Shakespeare, but it is so cleverly plotted and wittily scripted that you would be forgiven for believing so.

    This Superbit disc presents the story of a young Will Shakespeare (an utterly credible Joseph Fiennes) and his struggle to create his next great work, a feat made all the more painful by the ongoing success of his arch-rival Christopher Marlowe (an uncredited Rupert Everett). Will is struggling to write his latest play - tentatively titled "Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter" - and this is having a deep effect on his life, including his sexual prowess. Unfortunately for him, he is suffering from writer's block and cannot put pen to paper - other than to practice creating his definitive signature. As luck would have it, he stumbles across a remarkable young actor named Thomas Kent. This young lad is in reality one Viola de Lesseps, daughter of the nouveau-riche Sir Robert de Lesseps, who yearns to "tread the boards", but as a woman is forbidden by Elizabethan law and custom.

    Viola becomes Will's muse and the two form an amazingly deep bond, which is totally believable and immensely touching. Viola inspires Will to create one of the greatest plays in history - Romeo and Juliet. There are numerous twists and turns in the plot as Viola becomes betrothed to the obnoxious and money-grubbing Lord Wessex (wonderfully portrayed by Colin Firth) and Shakespeare is but a struggling playwright - oh, and he still happens to be married to his estranged wife Anne Hathaway. The screenplay coaxes you down a dreamy, funny and heart-rending path as identities are mistaken, love blossoms, rivalries come to the fore, plays are written and theatres are opened and closed by the slimy Mr Tilney (the always superb Simon Callow).

    Caught up in this "comedy of errors" is one of the best chosen ensemble casts of all time. Judi Dench is resplendent as Queen Elizabeth I, Gwyneth Paltrow is utterly superb as Viola (with the best English accent I have ever heard from an American actress) and Tom Wilkinson is great as "the money" Fennyman. The supporting characters are almost all recognisable and all give the performances of their careers - thanks in no small part to a script in which every single word is worth its weight in gold. The fact that the writers (Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman) manage to weave known fact (for example (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) the real stabbing death in a tavern of Kit Marlowe - not due to the movie's fictitious "framing" by Shakespeare) so seamlessly with utter fiction makes this film a constant tease - it is hard to determine what is biography and what is fantasy. Amazing stuff.

    Shakespeare In Love is quite simply, Cinema as Art. It is a truly wonderful film, flawless in every respect. The acting is phenomenal from every member of the superb ensemble cast. The humorous script is a masterpiece and had me laughing out loud at several points. The attention to detail in the set design creates a truly believable England of 1593, with costumes that are sumptuous and occasionally hilarious. The musical score is beautiful to listen to. It is impossible not to sound gushy when describing this film as it truly is a modern classic. I have just placed it into my "Top 10". If you have never seen this film, run out and buy it immediately.

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Transfer Quality


    The overall video transfer of this disc is perfect and sets the benchmark for reference quality.

    The film is presented 16x9 enhanced at 2.35:1, which is the original theatrical aspect ratio.

    Columbia Tristar have done a marvellous job with this transfer (even though it was fairly marvellous to begin with). Sharpness is perfect throughout. Colours are sublimely rendered with a truly filmic feel to the entire transfer. The excellent cinematography frames the film like a series of paintings in a gallery. Colour bleeding is absent. Skin tones are totally natural. Blacks are deep and solid with no low-level noise at all. This depth is complemented by perfect shadow detail at all times.

    There are no MPEG artefacts. Edge enhancement is not evident. There is no notable aliasing at all. In his review of the earlier Region 4 release of this film, MichaelD commented on a tiny bit of aliasing during the opening panning shot of "The Rose Theatre". This aliasing no longer exists in the Superbit version. (Postscript. My new DVD player and my television are PAL Progressive scan capable. If you watch the movie with an interlaced set-up as many of you will, then there is some marked aliasing still present exactly as MichaelD describes). There is no sign of telecine wobble, even during the title sequences.

    Film artefacts are almost totally absent. There are a few microscopic white flecks (for example 2:47, 7:24, 14:43 or 41:33), but they are truly insignificant, lasting for a frame or two at most.

    There are three subtitle tracks available. I sampled both of the English variants and found them to be well timed and very well matched to the on-screen action throughout. The subtitles for the Hearing Impaired provide audio cues and describe the names of actors speaking out of shot.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc, but I could not spot the layer change. I gather this is almost a standard feature on Superbit discs, and one which I appreciate greatly. The previous Region 4 release had a layer change at 75:33, but there is certainly no pause there on this disc.

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


    The overall audio quality of this disc is superb. This is not a disc to impress your friends with crashes and bangs, but to demonstrate how crystal clear dialogue and a wonderfully evocative musical score adds to the ambience of an excellent film.

    There are two audio tracks available. The first is a dts 5.1 track encoded at 768 kbps which is unique to the Superbit version. The second is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at the higher bitrate of 448 kbps, rather than 384 kbps on the earlier release. I listened to the former track in full and sampled the Dolby Digital version. Both of these tracks are very good indeed, but the dts track, even after compensating for volume differences, is richer, warmer and fuller, seeming to draw you into the film much more intensely.

    Dialogue was crystal clear and audio synch was perfect. The balance of music, sound effects and dialogue is perfect and the mix never allows dialogue to be drowned out by the other components.

    The original music is an outstanding orchestral effort from Oscar winning Stephen Warbeck. It is highly evocative and adds immensely to the alternately comedic and poignant moments throughout the movie. Soaring strings alternate with mournful piano and wind instruments, complemented by the subtle tolling of bells and choral backing in the more sombre scenes.

    The soundstage is wonderfully understated. Whilst the front speakers do most of the dialogue work, the surrounds are gainfully employed throughout to carry the wonderful musical score and surround effects such as crowds chattering and environmental noises. This creates a frequently enveloping soundstage without sounding at all contrived. There is excellent separation across the front speakers and the dialogue is extremely well anchored. Beautifully done without any showiness.

    The subwoofer is largely unused, but this is not unexpected given the heavily dialogue-driven nature of the film and an orchestral soundtrack which is not bass-heavy.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There are no extras on the disc, as would be expected for a Superbit release.


    The silent menu allows the selection of playing the movie, audio set-up, subtitle selection or choosing one of thirty-one chapter stops.


    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

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

    As far as I can determine, the Superbit version of this movie is not available in Region 1. The Region 2 version is already available.


    Shakespeare In Love is a superb movie with a stunningly good presentation on this Superbit disc.

    Once again however, the original Region 4 release was considered to be a reference quality disc. Why then release another flawless version? Well, the dts soundtrack is certainly an improvement on the already excellent Dolby Digital version. The layer change seems to disappear and so does any hint of aliasing...however so do the extras - the two commentary tracks included.

    The Superbit version of Shakespeare In Love is as close to the perfect transfer as you are ever likely to see on DVD. If you do not already own the movie, then buy either version at once. If you do already own the earlier Region 4 release, then I find it difficult to see why anyone would re-purchase the film at a higher price - save for the dts soundtrack.

    The video quality is of reference standard. It is fantastically sharp, the colours are superb and there are essentially no flaws.

    The audio quality is of reference standard with a wonderfully well written soundtrack and crystal clear dialogue.

    There are (of course) no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel O'Donoghue (You think my bio is funny? Funny how?)
Sunday, July 06, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDHarmony DVD Video/Audio PAL Progressive, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TX-47P500H 47" Widescreen RPTV. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR600 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJensenSPX-9 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

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