I Capture the Castle (2002)

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Released 2-Dec-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Theatrical Trailer-1.85:1, not 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 (1:59)
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 108:17
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Tim Fywell
Distant Horizon
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Marc Blucas
Rose Byrne
Sinead Cusack
Tara Fitzgerald
Romola Garai
Bill Nighy
Henry Thomas
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Dario Marianelli

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/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

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Plot Synopsis

    The reasons as to why I actually decided to select I Capture The Castle at the time the DVD arrived in the mail pretty much escaped me. In fact I barely remembered actually selecting it. After a few minutes pondering the matter, it eventually came to me: Tara Fitzgerald. I know it's a pretty flimsy excuse for grabbing a title for review, but hey I can live with it. Especially as the reward is a beautiful, beautiful film presented almost flawlessly on DVD. Now don't get me wrong - this is not the sort of film you would stick on for some mindless entertainment. There are occasions though when we crave a little more from a film and for those occasions we have films like I Capture The Castle.

    This is the tale of the rather eccentric Mortmain family in many respects. How eccentric? Well, father James Mortmain (Bill Nighy) has carted his family off to the wilds somewhere in England (well, apparently Suffolk is the area) to take the lease on a decrepit castle. He is a writer who has been suffering the effects of that age-old problem - writer's block. He once wrote a masterpiece, but since has been more barren than the English moors. The castle is supposed to unlock his creative juices, but it of course does not. Ten years on and his wife has died and he has remarried, to an artist named Topaz (Tara Fitzgerald), but the block is still there and ten years of poverty has worn fairly thin on eldest daughter Rose (Rose Byrne). She needs to escape the stifling atmosphere of the castle and its lack of opportunity. The younger daughter Cassandra (Romola Garai) - the narrator of the story - is less affected by the situation but equally determined that her father shall write again.

    The slightly depressing presence of the castle, however, is lifted by the arrival of two American brothers, now re-united after years of separation by the divorce of their parents. Simon Cotton (Henry Thomas) has come to take over running the family estate, which includes the castle that the Mortmain's tenant (albeit with their rent being two years behind). His brother Neil (Marc Blucas) has come to see what the estate is all about but has designs on returning as soon as possible to America. Of course, take one attractive English Rose (sorry, needed to get that in somewhere) and two hormonally charged American boys with vast amounts of money and you can fairly guess what is the result. The course of true love is not as easy as it seems though and young Cassandra becomes wiser than she should perhaps be as events do not pan out as the romantic within thinks. With Rose determined to escape the castle come what may, including marrying anyone with enough money to make it worth her while, Cassandra is still the true believer as far as love is concerned and cannot brook this sort of attitude.

    With the romantic intentions of Rose the centre of the tale, the eccentricities of the Mortmain family certainly add the variety that is sprinkled around the edges. Indeed those eccentricities provide the comedic highlights of the film, most notably the dinner parties and especially that put on by Mrs Cotton (Sinead Cusack).

    The film scores because of the eccentric edges to the characters, which are suitably played up in the film by debutante director Tim Fywell. However, with this being a character based film, it needs great actors to do the story proud. Bill Nighy is terrific as the slightly off-centre father, and carries off the eccentricity with just the right air of conviction and vulnerability. The equally off-centre Topaz is well handled by Tara Fitzgerald and it is at times difficult to understand their relationship - but equally as easy to understand and accept it. Rose Byrne is great but the star of the show is Romola Garai, a name I am not familiar with but one that has a load of promise. The American contributions to the film are not in the same league, and in some respects this is a fine way to see how different the American and English film acting schools are. With stunningly effective cinematography that highlights just about every aspect of the film, this really is a wonderful way to spend an evening.

    A period drama set in the 1930's? Avoid like the plague right? That was my natural tendency and so I am very glad that I choose to go against the grain and indulge in this film. A beautiful film in every respect.

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Transfer Quality


    This is one superb looking transfer in every respect. Try as I might, there was very, very little I could record as a negative against the transfer. Indeed, were it not for some Gibbs effect in the closing credits, there would be nothing at all wrong with the transfer - at least as far as I could see. The film is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    This is a really special transfer, one of the very best I have seen even amongst some of the beauties I have seen recently. As sharp as a knife, with some of the best detail and definition that I can recall having seen in a transfer for a long time. Some of the small details you can see in the castle for instance almost defy description, right down to the weeds growing in the cracks between the stones. There is nothing here hidden by the transfer, which is superbly clear, with nothing in the way of grain to be found. Shadow detail is exquisite, amongst the best that I have ever seen. You can forget low level noise in this effort.

    The colours are terrifically handled with a wonderful vibrancy to the transfer that really makes everything stand out. Given the period setting of the film, bright primary colours are not exactly rampant, but that is perhaps a god send for this transfer: the palette is wonderfully natural and the addition of bright primary colours might well have destroyed the wonderful effect created here. Everything has a terrific saturation with wonderful tonal depth and consistency. Blacks are well handled and skin tones are really good. There is nothing approaching over saturation here and colour bleed is a non-issue.

    There were no readily apparent MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There were no readily apparent film-to-video artefacts in the transfer. Aside from a few little specks in the end credits, you would have a hard job trying to find any film artefacts in the transfer.

    This is a single sided, single layered DVD, meaning there is no layer change.

    There are no subtitle options on the DVD, which is the only substantial disappointment with the package as a whole.

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


    There is just the one soundtrack on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Were it not for a slight issue with some extraneous bass in the soundtrack, this would have been darn near perfect. So slight is the issue with the bass that I initially dismissed it as coming from somewhere else, but pausing the playback of the disc indicates that it certainly is on the DVD.

    The dialogue comes up very well in the soundtrack and audio sync is spot on.

    The original music score comes from Dario Marianelli. In amongst the original music is some fine classical music too. The selections are excellent and the original music adds beautiful support to the whole film. More is the pity that we cannot have an isolated music score for this film, as I would suggest that it would be a lovely listen in its own right.

    The soundtrack is a beautiful effort, although not the sort of dazzling effects spectacular that most would suggest as a demonstration soundtrack. This is in its own way a demonstration however in that you rarely hear such beautiful, understated sound with all the clarity of a fresh mountain stream. Surround encoding is subtle but entirely appropriate to the nature of the film, whilst the soundscape balance is very nicely frontal as befitting a very dialogue driven film. With the film being set predominantly in a castle, the vastness of the rooms is well captured in the space in the sound. The low frequency effects channel usage is also generally quite subtle, only coming into play when it really is necessary. This makes the instances of the extraneous bass in the mix all the more puzzling. The effect is not really that bad, but occurs about six times and is quite readily noticed. It takes the form of a slight grumble that lasts for no more than a few minutes and then disappears to restore the absolute clarity in the background of the soundtrack. The two most noticeable instances were between 37:30 and 39:50 and again between 70:00 and 71:00. Whilst a mild disappointment, such is the excellence overall in the soundtrack that it is far easier to remember the stunningly open sound than quibble about a bit of extraneous bass.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There is very little here, but that is to be expected with not much space being left on this DVD-5 format disc.


    Rather stylish and certainly in keeping with the era of the film, with modest audio and animation to boot. The menu is also 16x9 enhanced.

Theatrical Trailer (1:59)

    Of excellent quality, it is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with excellent Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. It does a fine job of promoting the film all things considered.

R4 vs R1

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

    Whilst the film has certainly been available in Region 1, reliable reviews are rather hard to come by. It would seem that the initial release has now gone out of print but a new version has been release - which features a scene specific audio commentary, an additional Pan and Scan transfer of the film (why you would want it jumps to mind),some deleted scenes, an alternate ending, an interview with Romola Garai and some trailers for other films. It would appear that the transfer quality is similar to the Region 4. The film is available in Region 2 (UK) and would appear to have the interview with Romola Garai as well as an audio commentary. The one review found also says it has a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, which if correct would be a good reason not to buy the DVD. So even with all the major regions now having the full sell-through release available, Region 1 remains the choice.


    Whilst period drama is not usually the sort of fare that I would choose to watch for entertainment, I have to say that I found I Capture The Castle an interesting and very pleasant diversion, if just ever so slightly flawed. The video transfer is a pearler in every respect with nary an issue to be raised at all. The audio transfer is very good in all respects barring that slight problem with extraneous bass here and there. The DVD-5 format it is presented in hardly allows any space left for doing anything in the way of extras and so that is what we have. One could argue that a DVD-9 should have been used in order to provide additional extras but when the video transfer is as good as we have, why rock the boat for a few extras? A beautiful film that was a vast surprise to me and one that may have the same effect on you. Highly recommended.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Saturday, November 08, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1600, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Aconda 9381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-795
SpeakersEnergy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL

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Comments (Add)
Great film. -