Earth (1998)

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Released 19-May-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Theatrical Trailer-1.85:1, not 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 (1:51)
Trailer-Together, Satin Rouge, Monsoon Wedding, mr and mrs iyer
Trailer-Chalte Chalte
DVD Credits
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 1998
Running Time 101:20 (Case: 110)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (55:31) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Deepa Mehta
Studio
Distributor
Pinefilm Ent
Madman Entertainment
Starring Aamir Khan
Nandita Das
Rahul Khanna
Maia Sethna
Kitu Gidwani
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music A.R. Rahman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Hindi Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    It seems rather apt in some respects given the situation in the world today to be reviewing a film about events that occurred nearly sixty years ago where religious differences resulted in mass murder on a scale rarely seen before or since. The British pull out of India, arguably the last remnant of the once mighty British Empire, in 1947 was far too ad hoc for its own good. When the decision to leave India was made, rather than on a timetable of several years it was on a timetable of months. With so little planning, it was inevitable it was going to be a disaster of the highest order. So it turned out to be. After centuries of wrecking India, the British managed to really stuff everything up completely when they pulled out.

    Amongst the incomprehensible decisions they made was to arbitrarily divide the sub-continent into two unnatural countries - India and Pakistan. India was to be Hindu, Pakistan to be Muslim. Unfortunately, that failed to take into account the third major sect of the region - the Sikhs - let alone the myriad of others including the Parsee and the Christians. It also ignored the simple issue that for centuries the various religious sects had lived together in reasonable harmony, which would inevitably not be the case when no planning nor time was put into allowing members of the various sects time to sort out their affairs and make an orderly progression to the permanent state of their choice. The result was utter chaos that to some extent still exists today, as evidenced by the at times very frosty relations between the two nations.

    So we have the setting for Deepa Metha's Earth, second in her "elemental" trilogy after Fire (already available in Region 4 albeit as a rubbish pan and scan release). Whilst we know the setting, we now need to know the characters. The story is told through the eyes of young Lenny Sethna (Kitu Gidwani) whose wealthy parents Bunty (Kitu Gidwani) and Rustom (Arif Zakaria) are Parsees, and therefore avowedly neutral in the coming events. Being wealthy, young Lenny-baby is looked after by an Ayah (nanny) by the name of Shanta (Nandita Das), who just so happens to be a Hindu. Shanta, with Lenny-baby in tow, makes frequent visits to a local park to spend time with a group of friends including the Muslim Dil Navaz "The Ice Candy Man" (Aamir Khan), the Muslim Hassan "The Masseur" (Rahul Khanna), the Sikh Sher Singh (Navtej Singh Johar) and the Hindu Hariya (Raghuvir Yadav). As the partition comes closer, the relationships between these close friends demonstrate in a microcosm the events that are taking place around the country as brother turns on brother, often for no reason.

    It does not aid things that the Muslim Dil Navaz is in love with Shanta - as is Hassan...

    As the situation descends into utter chaos, we can see the parallels between the rending of the relationships of the group of friends and the events taking place in the country, especially after the massacre that took place on the train from Gurdaspur.

    Based on the novel Cracking India by Bapsi Sidhwa (who has a small cameo in the film as the older Lenny), Deepa Metha has created a very effective screenplay that does not do any more than create the setting and create the characters and the events in which they find themselves. No blame is apportioned and no comment is made - which of course makes the film even more powerful as the viewer draws their own conclusions. Once again however it is an excellent cast that brings the screenplay to life. My exposure to Bollywood has been fairly limited, mainly the rather enjoyable Lagaan and the very enjoyable Monsoon Wedding. From that limited exposure, I was a little wary when I saw that Indian screen star Aamir Khan was the star of this film. He of course is well known in Bollywood, and appeared in Lagaan, so I sort of had visions of copious singing which seems to be a staple of Bollywood. Thankfully what singing there is here actually suits the film well, and I need not have worried about Aamir Khan - he is very good here. The gorgeous Nandita Das does an excellent job - I would cheerfully convert to any religion to marry her, so no stretch there! Just running through the cast list and of the main characters there simply is not a weak link here.

   Despite all the above however, the film does not really get to a point where I feel it should have done - leaving something of a disappointment for instance in the ending. Still, for those who don't mind films that lack a little in the action stakes, this is well worth while checking out. The setting might be a substantial part of the film, but it is very easy to substitute it into other periods with ease - such as 2004 - and it still holds its power very well.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, which is very close to the original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    There is rarely a review session where my note book is virtually bereft of any notes about the transfer but this is one of those instances. That does not mean to say that it is perfect but it is certainly a very good one. The one issue that is constant through out the transfer is that there is a slight softness to the image. It is not a great issue at all, but on the odd occasion you really do wish for a slightly sharper image. This is mainly during the night time shots. Shadow detail is quite good overall and results in just the right sort of look to the transfer. Grain is not an issue.

    Given that the setting is nearly sixty years ago and the setting is the city of Lahore, once again we have a palette that is heavy on the earthier tones and lacking in copious quantities of primary colours. What we have though is very nicely handled and entirely believable - not vibrant but certainly producing a very pleasing look to the film. With nothing in the way of colour bleed and over saturation, this is really a very nice looking palette of colours.

    There are no significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer, with just some minor loss in resolution in one or two pan shots. There is no obvious evidence of film-to-video artefacting in the transfer, and even film artefacts were relatively absent from the transfer - other than some film dirt here and there.

    This is an RSDL formatted DVD with the layer change coming at 55:31. Since I did not notice it during the film, it is presumed to be a good one that does not disrupt the film at all.

    There is just the one subtitle option on the disc, being selectable English efforts. The problem is that they only come into play for the non-English dialogue, so we are left to our own devices in some rather heavily accented English sections. We also get no subtitles for any of the songs.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There is just the one soundtrack on the DVD, a notionally Hindi Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded soundtrack. Notionally for the simple reason that the soundtrack also includes English, Parsee, Punjabi and Urdu - an eclectic mix of languages reflecting the nature of the Indian sub-continent.

    The dialogue comes up well enough in the transfer, although some of the thicker accents do mean that you at times wish that the English subtitles extended to all the dialogue and not just the non-English dialogue. There does not appear to be any audio sync issues with the transfer.

    The original score comes from A.R. Rahman and serves the film rather well. In some respects it would have been nice to have an isolated music score just to be able to appreciate some of the nuances in the soundtrack, which certainly has it moments. Whilst not on the level of your typical Bollywood film, there are still some songs to be found in the film but they tend to add to the film rather than becoming a pointless interruption to it.

    In some respects it is a pity that a full six channel soundtrack was not used for the film as some of the more violent scenes would have benefited from a bit more presence. It is but a minor quibble though and what we have is quite acceptable. Nice open sound.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Not an entirely enthralling package, certainly not one that enhances the film experience any, which is rather regrettable.

Menu

    Nicely done with some modest audio enhancement.

Theatrical Trailer (1:51)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, it is not 16x9 enhanced and comes with reasonable Dolby Digital 2.0 sound. Nothing remarkable about it.

Trailers (5)

    The obligatory Madman Propaganda, with the trailers being for Together (1:55, 1.85:1, not 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 sound), Satin Rouge (1:39, 1.85:1, not 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 sound), Monsoon Wedding (2:14, 1.85:1, not 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 sound), Mr & Mrs Iyer (1:21, 1.66:1, not 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 sound) and Chalte Chalte (2:37, 2.35:1, not 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 sound). Nothing remarkable about them, with the technical quality being quite reasonable.

DVD Credits

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 1 DVD of the film has been out for a while now, and differs very little from the Region 4 release. It also does not have anything in the way of extras apart from the theatrical trailer, so if the additional trailers on the Region 4 release could tip the balance in favour of the Region 4. The few available reviews of the DVD seem to offer distinctly different views on the quality of the video, which makes things just a wee bit difficult for comparative purposes. It seems unlikely however that the Region 1 release offers anything significantly better in quality than the Region 4 release.

    The Region 5 release of the film (under its alternate title of 1947 Earth) offers another option if you care to wander to another region. Unfortunately it is not 16x9 enhanced but does offer the soundtrack in Dolby Digital 5.1 and by the sounds of it slightly more comprehensive subtitles, as they apparently include the song lyrics too. There are no extras on the disc. The sole review I located mentions some poor encoding resulting in double images in pan shots.

    I have not been able to track down any releases from other regions, which of course does not mean that they don't exist, so it would seem that on the balance the Region 4 is probably the better option of those available.

Summary

    The second in Deepa Metha's "elemental" trilogy, by general consensus Earth is not in the same league as the earlier Fire (the final film of the trilogy is Water that has yet to be released, although it is now completed). That is not to say that it is a bad or poor film, simply not as good as another film. In its own right it is more than decent enough even though I cannot help but feel that it could have been a little "harder" given the subject matter, and the final act does not really take the film to a worthy enough conclusion. Still, it is a rather too-close-to-the-bone reminder of just how bloody stupid mankind is, not to have learned the lessons of nearly sixty years ago, as well as the preceding two centuries of British rule on the Indian sub-continent. A pity that a more expansive extras package could not have been put together for the film, but this is still a release that may well be worthwhile checking out.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ian Morris (Biological imperfection run amok)
Friday, October 15, 2004
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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