Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)

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Released 13-Dec-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1984
Running Time 105:58
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (67:38) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Michael Radford
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring John Hurt
Richard Burton
Suzanna Hamilton
Cyril Cusack
Gregor Fisher
James Walker
Andrew Wilde
David Trevena
David Cann
Anthony Benson
Peter Frye
Roger Lloyd-Pack
Rupert Baderman
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Annie Lennox
Dominic Muldowney
David A. Stewart


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
German for the Hearing Impaired
French
Spanish
Dutch
Swedish
Finnish
Portuguese
Turkish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Nineteen Eighty-Four is the second film version of George Orwell’s 1949 vision of a totalitarian society taken to the absolute limit. It is a society that has allowed the government to completely dictate how they live and even how to think through constant monitoring of its citizens. It was written at a time when totalitarian governments in Spain, Germany and the Soviet Union were taking hold and it was published the same year that the Communist Party in China was established.

    The story centres on Winston Smith (John Hurt) who lives in Oceania, one of three super-government states. Oceania is at constant war with the other two states of Eastasia and Eurasia. (Incidentally, according to the novel Australia is part of Oceania). In Oceania its citizens are constantly monitored by the government through telescreens which also provide a constant stream of propaganda that includes confessions of dissidents who admit to their various ‘crimes’ and pledge their unquestioning love of ‘Big Brother’. Winston works for the government in the Ministry of Truth where he rewrites history for the purposes of party propaganda. His life gets complicated when he commits the crime of falling in love with Julia (Suzanna Hamilton) who also works for the government. His actions come to the attention of O’Brian (Richard Burton), a senior member of the party who, while initially indicating that he to wishes to help Winston, actually turns against him and takes him to the Ministry of Love where he will not only try to convince him of the folly of his ways but also to control his very thoughts.

    The performances from the leading actors are brilliant. John Hurt is outstanding as Winston and it’s hard to imagine anyone doing a better job. Richard Burton, in his final film performance, is tremendous as the government operative who seems closest and most empathetic towards people when he is torturing them. Suzanna Hamilton as Winston’s love interest is also very good as the siren-like woman who will open his eyes to possibilities of a free society but who also puts him in great peril.

    Director Michael Radford has successfully created a dark and disturbing vision of the future as imagined by George Orwell in the late 1940s. This is a gloomy, depressing and run down society and is quite a faithful adaptation of George Orwell’s cautionary tale of the dangers of an over-controlling government.

    It would be nice to think that George Orwell’s vision for the future was just an interesting relic of history but sadly his vision seems as relevant today as it was when it was first published in 1949. This movie is a dark and disturbing film but is also gripping and riveting viewing. If you have not yet seen this film then you really should wait no longer. It is not always the most comfortable film to watch but you will not be unmoved by Nineteen Eighty-Four.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    It has taken a while for Nineteen Eighty-Four to be released here in Region 4 but given the excellent transfer we have received it seems to have been worth the wait.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. IMDB.com lists the original aspect ratio as 1.66:1 although I am little sceptical about this. IMDB.com relies on information provided by its readers (I’ve provided some of that information myself) and not official information from the film makers. I saw no signs that the framing was anything but correct and it is possible that the film may have been presented in Europe in 1.66:1 but shot and composed with 1.85:1 in mind for the rest of the world.

    The image is wonderfully sharp and very nicely detailed while still retaining a wonderful film-like quality. Even when projected onto a large screen the image looks superb. Black level and shadow detail are both very good for a film of this age. The image is free of low level noise.

    The colour palette of the film is quite muted and dark throughout. Some previous releases, including the Region 1 version of this DVD, featured an image that had been brightened and exhibited more naturalistic colour. I’m pleased to report that our Region 4 release presents the film exactly as it was meant to be seen.

    The transfer is almost completely free of MPEG artefacts. A few instances of minor edge enhancement were observed such as trees against a bright sky at 10:59 and the outline of a face against a window at 50:32 but these will probably go unnoticed unless you look for them. The film print is very clean with only a few instances of white specks noticed. Some “effects shots” such as a Big Brother point of view shot at 6:18 contain noticeable dirt and scratches but this seems to be caused by the special effects instead of dirt on the print used for the transfer. The only other artefact was some aliasing on the telescreen displays within the film but this is not a fault of the transfer.

    A generous selection of subtitles are provided. I sampled the English subtitles which are white and easy to read. They match the on screen dialogue very well.

    The DVD is dual layered and RDSL encoded with the layer change occurring at 67:38. This is a dissolve between shots within one scene. It could have been better placed but should not distract too much from the flow of the movie.

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

Audio

    The soundtrack is presented in its original mono format but it’s a pretty decent soundtrack.

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is encoded at 224Kb/s.

    Dialogue was always clear and easy to understand and I didn’t observe any issues with audio sync.

    The original instrumental music score for this film was provided by the Eurythmics and Dominic Muldowney. Director Michael Radford was unhappy with the contribution of the Eurythmics, which had been forced onto him by the studio who wanted to use them as a marketing tool for the film. Subsequent to the release of the film in theatres Michael Radford replaced the Eurythmics' contribution with a more traditional orchestral score and this is the version that appeared on the video and television releases including the Region 1 DVD. Our DVD features the original soundtrack with the Eurythmics' instrumental score. While it does use synthesiser sounds, which does date the film a little, it is quite restrained and respectful and won’t distract from your enjoyment of the film. In fact, when comparing it to the orchestral version (I used the Region 1 DVD for comparison), I felt that the Eurythmics soundtrack had much greater emotional impact when compared to the even more constrained and subdued orchestral soundtrack preferred by the director. If you want to hear the orchestral version, listen to the Spanish soundtrack on this disc which feature that score.

    Being mono there is no surround or subwoofer activity.

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

Extras

    This is a bare-bones disc with a theatrical trailer being the only extra.

Theatrical Trailer (2:16)

    This theatrical trailer is a bit dated. It features a Eurythmics pop song very prominently and I feel it gives a rather poor impression of what the film is actually like. It is presented 16x9 enhanced.

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 was released in 2003 and while very good when judged in its own right, it has a digital edginess when compared to the ‘film-like’ appearance of our Region 4 release. The image has been brightened and the colours boosted compared to the way the film was shown theatrically which caused some controversy upon its release. By comparison our version is much darker and the colour palette is much more muted. Despite this colours still seem accurate and appropriate. While our version is darker in appearance the actual contrast range exhibited in the Region 4 release is much greater than the Region 1 which appears a bit flat when compared to the Region 4 disc. The Region 1 transfer also features more prominent edge enhancement than the Region 4 transfer.

    In terms of picture quality I feel the Region 4 is without question the version of choice. In terms of soundtrack our Region 4 is more dynamic and marginally superior in overall quality. The most controversial aspect is the use of the original soundtrack featuring music by the Eurythmics in our release. Director Michael Radford was unhappy with this soundtrack that was apparently forced upon him by the studio that used it as a marketing tool for the film. The Region 1 release features a more traditional orchestral score favoured by the director. As I mentioned in my review I actually found the soundtrack by the Eurythmics to be nicely done and felt that it better heightened the emotion of the scenes when compared to the director's preferred orchestral score.

    In terms of extras they are both identical, featuring only a theatrical trailer.

    The final thing working in the favour of our Region 4 release is the fact that the Region 1 version appears to be out of print now and thus hard to find. Given the superior transfer that matches the theatrical presentation and the superior audio, I’m going to give this one to Region 4, however those wishing to have an English soundtrack with the director preferred orchestral soundtrack will need to buy the Region 1.

    This film has also been released in Region 2. Only one review makes specific mention of the soundtrack and indicates that it contains the Director preferred orchestral score. The reviewer, however, appears to be under the false impression that the original soundtrack featured actual Eurythmics pop songs which is incorrect. I may well have made the same assumptions had I not directly compared the soundtrack on the Region 4 DVD with that on the Region 1. IMDB.com also indicates that the UK Region 2 disc contains the original Eurythmics soundtrack. Given that the other soundtrack and subtitle options on the Region 2 are identical to our DVD, and given that our DVD is dual encoded for Region 2 and Region 4, I have good reason to believe that the Region 2 is in fact identical to our Region 4 release.

Summary

    Nineteen Eighty-Four is a dark and disturbing film but also gripping and riveting viewing. If you have not yet seen this film then you really should wait no longer. It’s not always the most comfortable film to watch but you will not be unmoved by Nineteen Eighty-Four.

    The video transfer is excellent and unlike the Region 1 DVD it is a more accurate representation of the way it was seen theatrically as the director intended.

    Somewhat controversial, however, is that the soundtrack features the Eurythmics instrumental score that was not liked by the director.

    Only a theatrical trailer is provided in terms of extra.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Michael Gauntlett (read my bio if you're bored.)
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVPNS575-S Progressive Scan, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic PT-AE900E HD LCD Projector onto 90" 16x9 Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderLogitech 5500 THX. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationLogitech 5500 THX
SpeakersLogitech 5500 THX

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
R1 vs R4 - Ron REPLY POSTED
R2 soundtrack and ratio - REPLY POSTED
A choice of soundtracks would have been nice - Bran (my bio, or something very like it) REPLY POSTED
it was shot full frame - REPLY POSTED
Is this now OOP??? -
Out of Print now??? -