The Weight of Water (2000)

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Released 6-Sep-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller None
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 109:28
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Kathryn Bigelow

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Catherine McCormack
Sarah Polley
Sean Penn
Josh Lucas
Elizabeth Hurley
Ciarán Hinds
Ulrich Thomsen
Anders W. Berthelsen
Katrin Cartlidge
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music David Hirschfelder

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    The Weight of Water is based on the novel of the same name by Anita Shreve. It's a story that tries to cover two completely different time periods at the same location and draw some sort of parallel between the two eras. While each era stands up quite well by itself, the linking of the two just doesn't seem to work for some reason.

    Directed by Kathryn Bigelow (Strange Days, Point Break, and K-19 The Widowmaker), this is about as far removed from her normal action flick mould as any film can be. In fact, I have seen it referred to elsewhere as an art-house film, and while it does contain some elements of that genre, it has still been made with very much a mainstream audience in mind. Maybe this is its biggest flaw - trying to straddle both without actually committing to either.

    As stated, the film covers two very different time frames at the same location. The first is set in 1873, the second is the present day. The location is the very strangely named locale of Smuttynose Island off the coast of New Hampshire. In 1873 there was a double murder of two young woman in the small hamlet on the Island. German immigrant Louis Wagner (Ciarán Hinds) was tried and convicted of the murder of fellow European immigrants Karen Christenson (Katrin Cartlidge) and her sister-in-law Anethe (Vinessa Shaw). He was sent to the gallows based solely on the evidence of the only survivor and apparent witness to the crimes, Karen's sister Maren Hontvedt (Sarah Polley). There's plenty of this gruesome tale recounted here - told as a flashback story as Louis is tried in court.

    Flash forward some one hundred and twenty five years later and photographer Jean Janes (Catherine McCormack) is asked to travel to the island to take a series of photographs for a magazine article that is being written about the murders and the island. Jean has a bit of nose for history and a good story and begins to dig deeper into the century-old case. She believes that even more than one hundred years later she may be able to uncover some new evidence that will only fuel the long-running speculation that Louis Wagner was innocent of the murders and hanged for no reason.

    But Jean has some of her own troubles to deal with in addition to acting as an amateur sleuth. To get to the island, she and her Pulitzer Prize winning poet husband Thomas (Sean Penn) have enlisted the aid of Thomas' brother Rich (Josh Lucas) and his very fancy yacht. Rich decides at the last minute to bring his new flame along for the weekend, Adeline (Elizabeth Hurley). The voluptuous Adeline seems to know Thomas far better than she should for someone she has only just met, and it turns out they have met previously and Adeline in fact worships Thomas and his writings. The attention she begins to pay Thomas onboard the yacht, all while prancing around in a very small bikini, is causing Jean some consternation.

    As the tale of the murder on the island slowly unfolds, we also see the four way battle of emotions between Jean, Thomas, Rich, and Adeline on the boat. Adeline does her best to attract the attention of Thomas, all while Jean is watching, but seemingly ignoring it. Rich is also seemingly torn between his beautiful new girlfriend and the affections he feels for his sister-in-law.

    This slowly unfolding and simmering film tries to draw some sort of parallel between the relationships and family strife of Maren in 1873 and Jean in the modern day, but in the end the cuts back and forth between the two become quite tedious as quite frankly there really isn't any sort of parallel to draw. The two eras work fine by themselves, but the constant cutting back and forth for no real reason weakens both tales considerably.

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Transfer Quality


    Presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1, this transfer is also 16x9 enhanced.

    Not as consistently sharp as a high-budget release, the level detail in this transfer fluctuates between excellent for the modern day footage, and slightly softer and a fair bit grainier for the 1870s based footage. This is likely to be a design decision from the director and not a problem with the source material, though the use of more grain in the older material does tend to manifest itself as mild pixelization at time. Thankfully there isn't a trace of any edge enhancement. There are also no problems with shadow detail and there is no low level noise.

    Colours vary greatly between the two eras. The modern day colours are vibrant, sunny, and extremely bright, while the 1870s material takes on an almost cold sepia quality.

    While there are no obvious compression artefacts, the level of grain in the older material does make for a mild smattering of pixelization on occasion. There are no instances of any film-to-video artefacts, and thankfully film artefacts are seldom present.

    There are plenty of subtitle streams available. Sampling the English variety revealed them more than adequate for the job.

    This is a dual layered disc that is RSDL formatted. The layer change occurs mid-scene at 67:54, and it is so well placed that you will barely notice it.

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


    Somewhat surprisingly there is only one audio option available here, this being a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack. This is all the more disappointing and frustrating when one learns that the Region 1 disc comes complete with a full Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack. As a result it is really difficult to get excited over the soundtrack we get on this disc, but to be fair, for a two channel offering it isn't half bad, with plenty of dynamic range with some great thumps and bangs at some opportune moments. It doesn't have the full immersive qualities that a full 5.1 surround track would enjoy, but it works well with the limited resources that it has.

    The dialogue gets a little difficult to understand at times, particularly the scenes from the 1870s which feature plenty of strong European accents. This is all attributed to the source material and is not a blight on the transfer at all.

    The score is moody and quite haunting at times.

    There is no surround or subwoofer use.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    There is not a single extra on this disc.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 version of this DVD misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this DVD misses out on;

    A fairly obvious victory to the Region 1 disc here with the addition of a proper Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack being the clincher.


    The Weight of Water is a film that has tried to tackle a fairly complex set of subjects, often with an arty sort of delivery, yet staying within a mainstream set of formulas. The constant cutting back and forth many times throughout becomes a little tedious after a time and appears to actually harm both sets of stories considerably.

    The video quality is excellent. There is a little excessive grain on some of the flashback scenes, but this merely adds to the atmosphere.

    The audio is fairly lacklustre, and considering all we get on this Region 4 disc is a two channel offering, while the Region 1 disc receives a full Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack, it's a little hard to get excited about it.

    There is not a single extra.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Thursday, May 13, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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