Alexandra's Project (2003)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Biographies-Cast & Crew
Trailer-Rage In Placid Lake, Japanese Story, Erskineville Kings
|Year Of Production||2003|
|Running Time||98:43 (Case: 102)|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Rolf de Heer|
Twentieth Century Fox
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes, Sony TV and Video equipment|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes, Action during opening credits|
Alexandra's Project is the most recent film from director Rolf de Heer (who previously directed Dingo, Bad Boy Bubby and Dance Me To My Song).
This film features primarily a cast of three characters, and is almost stage-like in its production. Gary Sweet (perhaps best known for his TV work on Stingers and Water Rats) plays Steve, a husband and father of two. He is married to Alexandra (played by stage and film actor Helen Buday). The neighbour, the third of the main cast in this film, is played by Bogdan Koca (Close Contact).
The entire film takes place on Steve's birthday when he returns home to tell his family the news that he has been promoted at work. He finds his high-security townhouse deserted, but with evidence of party decorations, and a wrapped video cassette with a message urging him to play it.
When Steve pops this tape into the VCR and settles into to watch it, this is where he, and the viewer, are treated to an ever-increasingly alarming on-screen performance from his wife baring her heart, soul and more, via her 'project'. To say any more here would give away key elements of this well-crafted thriller.
The performances by the 3 lead actors are highly convincing, even Gary Sweet, who shows he has some acting ability, although I feel he is outclassed by Buday and Koca. The direction is tight, the dialogue quite believable, and the story (by director de Heer) is quite unusual, and gripping right through to the last frame.
The film is presented in its original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.
Overall the transfer to DVD is good, but not exceptional, especially given the film's very recent vintage.
The picture is not as sharp as I remember it being in the cinema - although it is not soft by any means, it is just not quite as sharp as other recent transfers I've viewed.
Shadow detail is as good as the director would have intended at all times, which is just as well, as the bulk of the film takes place in near darkness. There is enough detail to make out whatever is required in the shadows.
Surprisingly, grain was slightly evident throughout, especially in outdoor scenes, such as at 2:32. It was never distracting, and might have been a deliberate cinematographic choice, or perhaps due to the use of high-speed film.
There was no low-level noise apparent at any time.
There was a strong, vibrant colour throughout this film, which was transferred well on this DVD. There was no hint of oversaturation or colour bleed at any time.
There was some moire effect on the TV screen, such as at 31:50 and 38:02. Fortunately it is not too prevalent, as much of the action involves action taking place on this TV screen.
There were no subtitles on this disc.
This was a single sided disc and there was consequently no layer change.
The soundtracks on this disc are presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 and in Dolby Digital 2.0.
There were some major issues with both soundtracks. Firstly, the 5.1 soundtrack was mastered at a very low level. Secondly, the 2.0 soundtrack, while mastered at are more 'normal' volume, appeared to suffer from a degree of background noise and even exhibited some distortion at particularly loud moments.
Dialogue was clear at all times, which is essential in such a film, and appeared to be in sync with the actors' lip movements.
The music, by Graham Tardif (Bad Boy Bubby, Dance Me To My Song) is a good soundtrack that suits the on-screen action and tension at all times.
This being primarily a dialogue driven film, the 5.1 soundtrack isn't one to impress neighbours with. Much of the sound is spread across the 3 front speakers, with only the occasional effect and music piped to the rear surrounds. Some examples of the surround speakers being used include the traffic noises across the front speakers at 18:57, and the sound effects in the rear surrounds at 39:46 and 87:45.
The subwoofer was used well to support the music, which helped build the 'tension' throughout the film. An example of the subwoofer use was at 74:20.
|Surround Channel Use|
The main menu on the DVD is nicely presented with music and moving scenes from the film. However, it is in 1.33:1 fullscreen.
Biographies - Cast and Crew
Single page of brief detail on each of:
Gary Sweet, Helen Buday, Bogdan Koca, Rolf de Heer, Antonio Zeccola (Executive Producer), Julie Ryan (Producer), and Domenico Procacci (Producer). I feel that the last three were just included as promotional material for the film company.
These pages were presented in 1.33:1 full screen and with no background audio.
Theatrical Trailer (2:08)
The original trailer for Alexandra's Project, presented in 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby 2.0 surround. This trailer does a good job of promoting the film, without revealing any key plot elements.
A collection of trailers for other Australian films from the same studio.
Rage in Placid Lake (1:48). For a very recent release, this trailer is very poorly presented on this DVD in 1.33:1 pan and scan, but with Dolby 2.0 surround sound. The picture quality is ordinary, and makes this trailer look much older than it is.
Japanese Story (2:20). Presented in 1.78:1 letterboxed. Oddly, it is anamorphically squeezed when it's not meant to be! Hence, it cannot be displayed correctly.
Erskineville Kings (2:34). Presented in 1.33:1 pan and scan, with Dolby 2.0 surround sound.
Visitors (1:56). Presented in 1.78:1 letterboxed, with Dolby 2.0 surround sound. Good to see a locally made horror movie!
Photos of the cast and crew both on and off the set, including publicity-type shots. This was presented in 1.33:1 full frame and was somehow very effective, compared to others I've seen, perhaps because there are no borders around the pictures. However, some of the stills are somewhat low resolution. This might have been improved with the use of soundtrack music in the background.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This disc appears to have only been released in R4.
I really enjoyed this film, even the second time around. It's tightly written and directed, well acted, and is an unusual story. However, I felt that there were a number of technical problems on this DVD which should have been ironed out prior to release. This includes the very low encoded level of the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, as well as the noisy 2.0 soundtrack. Also, there were some incorrect menu entries on the Main Menu, such as "Play All" when it should have been "Play Movie". The mistake with the anamorphic squeeze on one of the trailers also points to a 'rushed' release.
However, in the overall scheme of things, these are relatively minor issues and should not preclude one from buying or renting this good locally-made film. Be warned that the content is of a very adult nature and earns its MA rating by dint of scenes of frontal nudity (male and female) as well as ripe language. This might not be the ideal film for family Christmas viewing!
The audio, as mentioned earlier, is flawed, but solved by simply turning up the amplifier volume when listening to the 5.1 soundtrack. The 2.0 soundtrack did seem rather noisy though.
The video transfer is good, without being exceptional.
The extras are reasonable, though in this day and age a Director's Commentary would have been great. Perhaps for a later 'Collectors Edition'?
|DVD||Pioneer DV-344 Multi-Region, using Component output|
|Display||Sony KV-XA34M31 80cm. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||Main: Mission 753; Centre: Mission m7c2; rear: Mission 77DS; Sub: JBL PB10|