Mrs. Dalloway (1997)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Notes-About Virginia Woolf and Mrs Dalloway
Biographies-Cast & Crew
|Year Of Production||1997|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Marleen Gorris|
First Look Pictures
Universal Pictures Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
There has been a lot of commentary on the writings of Virginia Woolf, and with good reason. She was an astounding author. Certainly troubled, and that manic-depressive streak came through in her writing. Her novel Mrs. Dalloway is a finely crafted piece of work, displaying her usual rambling narrative that flips backwards and forwards in time with abandon. Memories kicked off by random noises, a glimpse of something half-remembered triggering a moment of introspection from which you glean a deeper understanding of the characters. It is also undeniably nostalgic, and yet deep – a contradiction which very few authors manage to achieve successfully in their writings.
This independent UK adaptation of probably her most famous novel (which would later form inspiration for Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, later to be turned into an award-winning film starring Nicole Kidman) captures that essence in Woolf’s writing very well. The screenplay deftly manages to interweave character plots in a heartfelt and coherent way so as to give us a picture of these complex persons and the society in which they live.
The film opens on the battlefields of Italy in 1918, during World War I. The young Septimus (Rupert Graves) witnesses his friend being killed when he steps on a mine. Then we are in another world – Mulberry, London in 1923 after the war. We meet Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway, an elderly lady (played exceptionally well by Vanesssa Redgrave) who is holding a party for her friends and high society. As she is planning her party, small things are triggering memories of a summer some thirty years previous, the dawn of her emotional and sexual awakening. Her closest friends spend their evenings at her house; Sally (Lena Headey) the aloof and carefree bombshell, Peter Walsh (Alan Cox) an intensely passionate man who is trying desperately to court the young Clarissa (Natascha McElhone), then unmarried.
In the present, Septimus is in town to see a psychiatrist, who happens to also know the Dalloway family. Septimus is experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, what the doctors of the time have called delayed shell-shock, but nobody knows how to deal with him. His wife is at her wits end, but cannot stop loving him. At the same time, an older Mr. Walsh (Michael Kitchen) is also back in London seeking a divorce from his wife after having an affair with a married woman in India. It is quite obvious that his love for Clarissa has not died over the years. The fate of all will collide at the party where the past of youthful carefree lives catches up with the reality of the cultured present.
Much like Woolf’s writing, this film, adapted by Eileen Atkins and directed by Marleen Gorris, is incredibly dense. Coming in at only a little over 90 minutes, there is still so much in this film that I could spend hours dissecting it. It functions on many levels, the basic nostalgic level, the more intricate analysis of high society, personal and national politics, and the emotional level dealing with passions and dreams lost, opportunities slipping through fingers, the joy of life and the release of death. It also displays some of the finest performances I have seen of late from an ensemble cast.
For those intellectuals amongst you who love art and literature, and see the film format as a forum not for merely entertainment (not that it should not also encompass the silly, stupid and just plain enjoyable) but also for creative expression, Mrs. Dalloway is a deep and incredibly moving film. It raises more questions than it answers, its over-voicing working much the way that Terrence Malick used the technique in The Thin Red Line – to evoke rather than lecture. While it is in stark contrast to that latter film, it is nevertheless a worthy exploration of people, and that is the best thing you can ask for in literature and film as a literary medium.
Sadly, this excellent film has not been given a particularly good transfer.
Thankfully the film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.
However, colours are a little muted, and although this was not shot in the high gloss Hollywood style (it is an independent production after all), it seems a little murky. Shadow detail is not excellent, but it is acceptable.
The picture is also quite grainy. There is quite a bit of persistent low-level noise, particularly in the background, and overall it is quite soft. While this last might have been an intentional choice, I am not so sure. Rather than having that soft-filtered focus feel, it feels more smudged.
As for video artefacts, I noticed some dot-crawl here and there, most obviously at 13:58 and during the end credits which are quite a mess. I also noticed some rather glaring posterization and an odd wobble in the picture at 66:50 - 67:13. There also seemed to be some kind of frame interlacing problem. Every time there was an edit shifting from one camera angle to another there was a very brief instance of visual disintegration as if two frames were interposed and making a mess of each other. At first I did not notice this so much, but the more it went on, the more it became apparent. It is not as bad as maybe this description makes it sound, but when you sit there and concentrate on it, that’s what it seems like. All this is indicative of a very low bitrate in the transfer.
There are quite a lot of film artefacts, most notably dirt on the print. That wobble I mentioned above I would suggest is also a film artefact rather than a film-to-video transfer fault.
There are no subtitles.
This is a single-sided, single-layered disc. Many of the faults in the picture quality are a result of the low-bitrate transfer needed to compress this whole movie plus a bunch of extras onto one layer. The bonus is that there is no dual layer pause. In all honesty, I would have preferred a better transfer.
There is only the original English audio available in 2.0 Dolby Stereo. It is not a fantastic track, but it is adequate for the purpose of understanding the film.
There is no problem with understanding dialogue, but I noticed there were a couple of audio sync problems at 30:48 - 31:50 and 74:18 - 74:42. These are very minor, being only maybe a frame or two out, but you can detect it.
The score, a very haunting ensemble by Ilona Sekacz, is okay, but its range seems kind of stifled.
I noticed several instances of pops of static on the audio track (the most notable instance being at 86:14 - 86:36) and a flutter in the audio as if the microphone had been left out in high wind at 65:40 - 66:19.
There were several left-right directional cues, mostly people walking across the screen, or traffic, but no surround presence and also no subwoofer use.
|Surround Channel Use|
All menus are presented in 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. The main menu has a snippet from the early part of the film and sound in 2.0 Dolby Stereo.
Presented in 1.85:1, non-16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Stereo.
Presented in 1.33:1, non-16x9 enhanced, 2.0 Dolby Stereo, this has interviews with principal cast and crew, especially Vanessa Redgrave, on the significance of the film and the story of Mrs. Dalloway.
A series of 9 stills presented in 1.78:1, non-16x9 enhanced providing written information about the making of the movie.
A series of 10 stills presented in 1.78:1, non-16x9 enhanced providing written information about the novel and the author. Quite interesting.
Two stills presented in 1.78:1, non-16x9 enhanced providing written information about the director.
Two stills presented in 1.78:1, non-16x9 enhanced providing written information about the screenwriter.
Two stills presented in 1.78:1, non-16x9 enhanced providing written information about the lead actress.
One lonely still presented in 1.78:1, non-16x9 enhanced providing written information about the other leading lady.
Another single still presented in 1.78:1, non-16x9 enhanced providing written information about the young actor who played Septimus in the film.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The R1 release of this title is not 16x9 enhanced and apparently does not have the Production Featurette or the Theatrical Trailer.
Mrs. Dalloway is a fine adaptation of one of Virginia Woolf’s finest novels. It captures the essence of its originating material quite well and is ultimately a very stirring piece.
The video is unfortunately pretty bad. Not unwatchable by any stretch of the imagination, but far from pristine.
Sound is, sadly, a fairly flat 2.0 Dolby Stereo mix. The soundtrack could have done with some tweaking for depth and ambience.
The extras were all right, some of the written information proving worthwhile and interesting.
|DVD||Panasonic DVD-RV31A-S, using S-Video output|
|Display||Beko 28" (16x9). This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.|
|Speakers||Energy - Front, Rear, Centre & Subwoofer|