My House in Umbria (2003)

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Released 6-Sep-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Richard Loncraine (Director) & Frank Doelger (Exec. Prod.)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 103:01
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (61:26) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Richard Loncraine

Warner Home Video
Starring Maggie Smith
Ronnie Barker
Chris Cooper
Benno Fürmann
Giancarlo Giannini
Timothy Spall
Libero De Rienzo
Emmy Clarke
Cecilia Dazzi
Anna Longhi
Deirdre Harrison
Silvia De Santis
Alison Cameron Adam
Case ?
RPI $29.95 Music Claudio Capponi

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German 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

    When I chose to review this release, I did not know much about the plot of this film, although I was aware that it starred Maggie Smith, the great English actress and was obviously set in Italy. I was expecting a sedate character drama in the Merchant Ivory mould. I was therefore quite (pleasantly) surprised by the film which this is. This is a very hard movie to categorise as it includes elements of mystery thriller, romance, fantasy and character drama. This is a good thing as it makes the film different to most other films you may have seen. Having said that, it will not appeal to everyone, and it is more likely to be enjoyed by people who enjoy films such as Enchanted April. This film was made for the US cable network HBO.

    The film opens with an obviously well-off English lady heading off from her house in Umbria for a shopping trip to Milan. She is Emily Delahunty (Maggie Smith) which we soon find out is not necessarily her real name. She is driven to the train station by her accountant/gardener/manager, Quinty (Timothy Spall). She soon finds her seat in a compartment which also includes a young German couple, an elderly Englishman and his daughter and a younger American married couple and their young daughter. As the train traverses the Italian countryside their compartment is torn apart by an explosion which results in Mrs Delahunty waking up in a local hospital with some minor injuries. The only other survivors from the compartment are the elderly Englishman referred to as The General (Ronnie Barker in one of his last roles), the young German man, Werner (Benno Fermann) and the young daughter of the American couple, Aimee (Emmy Clarke). The General's legs have been injured, Werner has lost some of his fingers and Aimee appears to be uninjured but will not speak.

    Mrs Delahunty decides to invite all three of them to stay with her in her house while they are waiting for the investigation to complete, to aid their recovery. As they begin reconstructing their lives after the tragedy, a policeman, Inspector Girotti (Giancarlo Giannini) investigates the cause of the explosion and starts to look into possible explanations such as a terrorist attack or something related to one of the people in the compartment. Into this mix comes the cold and uptight uncle of Aimee from America, Thomas Riversmith (Chris Cooper). He has come to collect Aimee and take her back with him to America. He and his wife have no children and are both scientists who study different types of ants. Mrs Delahunty tries to help them all to come to terms with their experience with varying degrees of success. She is a very complex character with some dark secrets in her past. The rest of the plot follows the investigations of Inspector Girotti and the details revealed about the various characters.

    I found this film entertaining and interesting. It featured some fine acting, especially the Emmy award winning performance of Maggie Smith in a very interesting role. The rest of the cast also do excellent jobs. The cinematography is also excellent and the locations as you would expect are beautiful, featuring the Italian countryside.

    All in All, this is definitely a worthwhile film which would be enjoyed by fans of quality cinema.

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Transfer Quality


    The video quality is very good but has a slightly low bitrate.

    The feature is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio 16x9 enhanced which is probably the original aspect ratio.

    The picture was reasonably clear and sharp throughout, with no evidence of low level noise. There was some light MPEG grain which was slightly worse in some scenes, such as at 34:05. Shadow detail was very good. I think the sharpness was affected by the average video bitrate of only 4.37 Mb/s.

    The colour was wonderful, rich and solid throughout.

    There were no noticeable artefacts other than the light MPEG grain.

    There are subtitles in 18 languages including English and English for the hearing impaired. The English subtitles were clear and easy to read. Disappointingly, lines of Italian (of which there were quite a few) were only translated if the main English subtitles were turned on.

    The layer change occurs at 61:26 and was noticeable but not overly so.

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


    The audio quality is very good.

    This DVD contains three audio options, an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 384 Kb/s, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack encoded at 192 Kb/s and a German English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 384 Kb/s.

    Dialogue was clear and easy to understand and there was no problem with audio sync.

    The score of this film by Claudio Capponi was wonderful, warm and romantic.

    The surround speakers were well used as required by the dialogue focused soundtrack. They were used for some well placed directional effects such as during car trips and the explosion.

    The subwoofer was not used in any noticeable way.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu was still and silent providing the ability to select scenes, languages and subtitles. The only extra can be found on the audio menu.

Commentary - Director Richard Loncraine & Producer Frank Doegler

    This is a high quality commentary track which, unlike many, is honest and open including discussion of what went well and what didn't go so well. The participants have interesting anecdotes about working in Italy, difficulties with heat and Italian crews, casting, story adaptation, locations, costumes, music and the other important ingredients of the film. Definitely worth a listen.

R4 vs R1

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

    This movie has been released in Region 1 in a very similar format. The differences are quite minor and are as follows:

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    On this basis you may as well call it a draw unless you are desperate for the bios.


    An enjoyable and quite different character drama starring Maggie Smith.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The disc has only one extra but it is of high quality.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Monday, November 14, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV667A DVD-V DVD-A SACD, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

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