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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself (Warner) (2002)

Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself (Warner) (2002)

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Released 7-Jan-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Anim & Audio
Featurette-The Stunts On The Bridge Of The River Clyde
Featurette-Finding The Scottish And Danish Tone
Theatrical Trailer
Deleted Scenes-4
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 104:42
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (61:34) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Lone Scherfig

Warner Home Video
Starring Jamie Sives
Adrian Rawlins
Shirley Henderson
Lisa McKinlay
Mads Mikkelsen
Julia Davis
Susan Vidler
Robert McIntosh
Lorraine McIntosh
Gordon Broem
Mhairi Steenbock
Andrew Townsley
Coral Preston
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Joachim Holbek

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

     There are many curious pairings in this interesting little film. Not only are some of the character match-ups interesting, but the coupling of the Danish and Scottish film industries is in itself grounds for much fascination. And perhaps that's part of what gives Wilbur Begår Selvmord (Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself) such an interesting sense of isolation. That alienation seems to have extended to some of its audience also - polarising the opinions of viewers to either love it or loathe it. I would place myself in the former camp - there's something about this piece that I found quite, well, almost hypnotic actually. Lone Scherfig is a director who became the darling of cinemagoers everywhere with her effort in 2000, Italiensk For Begyndere (Italian For Beginners), which was splendidly reviewed by Rob G, as you can see by clicking here. To set a film in a language and environment foreign to one's own native experience is a bold move. All the security blankets of cultural familiarity are stripped away, and indeed, the cast mention in their bonus material interviews that there was a great deal of collaboration between them on how to translate Danish humour into something that would be natural and believable in a Scottish setting.

     Exactly what genre one could describe this film as belonging to is probably a moot point. It is at times humorous, ironic, cynical, aimless, painful and tragic. Our nominal character, Wilbur (Jamie Sives), is a young man who has had plenty of encounters, and more than a few brushes with death. His mother died in tragic circumstances when he was a young boy, and as this film opens, his father has recently gone to join her. In a disconnected, almost naive way, Wilbur makes various attempts on his own life until his brother, the fortunately named Harbour (Adrian Rawlins) intervenes, finally convincing him that their father's dying wish was for Wilbur to become involved in the second-hand bookshop where Harbour lives. Their shop, North Books is one of those wonderful old dusty places where literary treasures are waiting to be discovered, and the sensitive and the disaffected can find haven.

     Enter Alice (the amazing Shirley Henderson), a delicate fawn of a young single mum who supplements her paltry cleaner's wage from the local hospital by selling any books she finds lying about the wards to Harbour. They begin to form a tentative relationship and soon a family unit of sorts is created as Wilbur, Harbour, Alice and her daughter Mary (Lisa McKinlay) coexist above the dusty shop. It's as though there's an enchanted circle around the shop. Whilst they are ill-fit in the world outside, each finds solace inside their haven and they strengthen and sustain each other in their own unique ways. But of course, the external world cannot be completely obliterated, and each has to encounter that reality with life-altering consequences.

     Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself has a certain poetry to it that, if surrendered to, becomes enchanting and beguiling. It is not a high action film by any means, although there is no shortage of drama available. The piece examines and challenges themes of love, the value of human life and relationships and reels out its story in an elegant, non-judgemental fashion. The performances of Sives, Rawlins and Henderson are wonderful, complementary and believable, creating an ensemble that connect emotionally without any over-sentimentality. Scherfig's direction is careful and subtle, her Dogme background evident in her determination to not overproduce the film. The subject matter is a fearless entry into a somewhat taboo subject, and yet it does not opt for a sensationalistic approach. I thoroughly enjoyed this moving piece of cinema and would recommend it heartily to viewers who enjoy quieter, more contemplative pieces.

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Transfer Quality


     Overall, this transfer was really pretty good.

     The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced.

     While the luminance levels were not particularly high, this appeared to be a conscious choice on the part of the director. Grain levels were extremely fine, shadow detail was excellent and there was no low level noise.

     In what appears to be a similar production choice, the colour range was mostly quite limited and muted, with the exception of scenes like the Chinese restaurant which rendered strong reds and powerful primaries without blocking or bleeding. Skin tones were accurate and pleasing throughout.

     There appeared to be few MPEG artefact problems. Aliasing was minimal and motion blur was not a major problem. There were few film artefacts with which to contend.

     There were no subtitles available which was, at times, a shame, as the thick accents sometimes beat me and I needed to do a quick rewind for verification.

     This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed at 61:34 but it is not disruptive to the flow of action.

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


     There are 2 audio tracks available, English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s) and English Dolby Digital 2.0. I listened to both briefly but opted for the 5.1 track to view the presentation.

     The dialogue was recorded cleanly enough, but there were instances where the accents defeated me, and I had to resort to the rewind button to check a word or two. Audio sync presented no problems.

     The musical score by Joachim Holbek was a spare entity. This film does not over-employ music as a device to direct the audience's emotional response, but the music that was performed was delicate and beautiful.

     The surround channels were not heavily employed with this film, occasionally providing some directional sound, but barely registering for most of the production. This seemed appropriate for the film's style - it needed little by way of incidental sound. The subwoofer was similarly underused.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



     The menu design is themed around the movie. It is presented in a 4:3 format and has an animated clip from the movie and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Featurette: Developing the Characters of Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself (8:38)

     Behind the scenes glimpses, clips of the film and interviews with Jamie Sives, Shirley Henderson and Adrian Rawlins. There are some revealing insights included and this presentation does provide a richer background texture to the film.

Stunts On The Bridge of The River Clyde (2:10)

     A slightly underwhelming behind the scenes look at Jamie ("I do my own stunts") Sives dropping off a bit of wall into big foam cushions.

Featurette - Finding The Scottish and Danish Tone (2:43)

     Director Lone Scherfig, Jamie Sives and Adrian Rawlins discuss the challenges of translating humour from one language to another.

Theatrical Trailer (2:11)

Deleted Scenes

     Some scenes that were shortened or expunged from the final cut. There's nothing here that looks like a true loss to the final film.


     A couple of scenes that took a fair few goes to get in the can.

R4 vs R1

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

     I can find no evidence that this film has been released in any other regional format, so R4 is the winner.


     This film is a clever, subtle and enthralling piece. It approaches the issues of suicide and loss in a very considered and careful manner, without offering any glib or monodimensional answers. It shows human relationships as the clumsy, organic and messy beasts that they truly are, and flatly refuses to allow any chocolate box sentimentality to creep in. At turns funny, tragic, alienating and engaging, this is a worthwhile film. Watching it with friends may stimulate lengthy post-film conversations.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Mirella Roche-Parker (read my bio)
Saturday, January 24, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDSinger SGD-001, using S-Video output
DisplayTeac 76cm Widescreen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTeac 5.1 integrated system
SpeakersTeac 5.1 integrated system

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