Father and Son (Otets i Syn) (2003)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
|Year Of Production||2003|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Aleksandr Sokurov|
Warner Home Video
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||Russian Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.66:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
In 2002, Aleksandr Sokurov finally got his dues outside of Russia with his audacious film, Russian Ark. Attempting to show something of the cultural clash between Russia and the rest of Europe, Sokurov unfortunately pigeon-holed himself as the director of a technically clever film. Shot in one ninety-six minute take, the film was marketed almost solely on its technical achievement, an achievement that perhaps came to obscure the film's message and beauty for many viewers. This marketing strategy was useful in getting the film seen, if only for curiosity's sake, but did little for Sokurov's reputation beyond granting him record holder status. Consequently his large body of film work still remains relatively unknown.
His anonymity is unfortunate given the quality of his films. His 2003 film, Father and Son, while again making highly visible technical gestures, finds Sokurov capturing the intricate details of family interaction. Controversial in its own right for its perceived homoerotic and incestuous undertones, Father and Son follows the intimate relationship between an ex-military man (Andrei Shchetinin) and his young adult son, Alexei (Aleksei Nejmyshev). I say "follows", but their relationship doesn't exactly go anywhere. Scene after scene finds the pair staring longingly at each other, touching, caressing, and comforting each other. Both have a deep and abiding love for the other, so deep that the appearance of another young man searching for information about his father stirs childish jealousy in Alexei; and so deep that Alexei's lover, knowing she can't compete with his father, leaves him for an older man. Alexei is aware that his dependence on his father is unhealthy, but hesitates to loosen his grip or let his father go.
The elements of the story certainly allow for a Bergmanesque chamber drama, but Sokurov chooses instead to create a mood piece. The film touches only lightly on the plot points above and very little happens - although a lot is felt. The film carries a poetic, dreamlike atmosphere, moving through scenes of diffused and hazy light. Slight anamorphic distortions and a certain flatness of the image lend further to a sense of the unreal, and the sounds of radio static and the Tchaikovsky inspired score work together to create a kind of stillness in which emotions can flow unrestrained. This reliance on visual and aural elements at the expense of plot may try the patience of some, but treating the film like a piece of music and enjoying it for the feelings it stirs rather than searching for its meaning proves the best approach to Sokurov's film.
Father and Son is the second film in a projected trilogy based around familial relationships. Mother and Son (yet to be released on DVD in Australia) appeared in 1997 and uses a similar plotless and visual style to Father and Son. No news yet as to what sort of relationship Sokurov will address in the final film, but I for one am looking forward to seeing more. What I have seen of Sokurov's oeuvre so far is very impressive, and I would recommend his work on the strength of this film alone. Father and Son is a beautiful mood piece, certain to touch the patient viewer, and a pleasant detour from standard narrative driven drama.
It's somewhat difficult to determine whether what appears to be a video problem is actually intentional on Sokurov's part. Keeping that possibility in mind, Father and Son's video transfer is good but far from perfect.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced. I have not been able to find any definitive information on the film's original ratio. There has been some suggestion that the film was actually shot at 1.33:1. Towards the end of the closing credits, the frame is zoomed out, without changing the aspect ratio, suggesting that some manipulation of the original aspect ratio has occurred. Compared to the Artificial Eye and Wellspring releases, ours has a little more information top and bottom: either ours is open matte, or the other releases have been cropped. Until solid information becomes available, I'd suggest that the Region 4 release finds the happy median in terms of aspect ratio.
Father and Son has been filmed with a soft focus, cutting back on sharpness and detail. The image is a little noisy. The film's lighting gives everything a glow, surrounding the actors in a soft, white halo. Colours are fairly drab, following an autumnal scheme of dull oranges and greens. The image is deliberately made to appear flat.
At times the image displays anamorphic distortions, appearing skewed or stretched across the diagonal. This is a deliberate effect and not a problem with the transfer or an incorrect setting in your DVD player or television. The corners of the frame are curved (other releases appear to have been cropped to eliminate this effect).
Pixelization and posterization affects faces in just about every shot, shifting into some very visible instances of moire effect. The worst example occurs when the camera focuses on the father and Alexei through an X-ray between 15:15 and 16:16, but posterization or moire effect is visible on almost every face to varying degrees. The effect is very distracting, considering the extensive use of close ups, and one I don't imagine Sokurov deliberately aimed for. The opening and closing credits display heavy aliasing (they are not the original Russian credits either). A string of dark blemishes briefly appear on the father's arm at 16:47 and a fine, vertical line runs down Alexei's face at 65:54. The transfer is otherwise very clean.
White English subtitles are forced. I cannot comment on their accuracy.
Audio is provided in the form of a Russian Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, surround encoded and although not particularly active in surround terms it captures Sokurov's careful sound design well.
Dialogue is clear and audible. Audio sync is just slightly out at times. Andrey Sigle based the score on themes by Tchaikovsky. The music is lush and carries a sense of longing. The score overlaps with music and sounds within the film world, appearing and disappearing so subtly that at times it is hard to separate the different elements. Often the static of mistuned radio acts as a kind of musical backdrop and echoes, ticking clocks and dripping water are used to create a soothing ambience.
Most of the dialogue is directed to the centre. Music fills the fronts and rears. Most Foley effects are directed to the centre as well, although echoes are allowed to reverberate in the surrounds and sounds that act as a kind of music (like the radio static for example) also fill the entire sound stage. I don't recall the subwoofer registering at all.
|Surround Channel Use|
A photo gallery of five images. Fairly pointless inclusion.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 1 release from Wellspring presents the film at a ratio of 1.77:1 and includes a photo gallery (very likely the same as ours), a couple of weblinks and trailers for Father and Son and Russian Ark.
The Region 2 UK release from Artificial Eye shows slightly more image, presenting the film at 1.78:1. Extras include Sokurov's 1995 short film A Soldier's Dream, a trailer for Father and Son, and filmographies for Sokurov, screenwriter Sergey Potepalov, and cinematographer Alexander Burov. Comparisons suggest that the Artificial Eye image is more detailed and sharper than the Wellspring image.
The Region 5 Russia (RusCiCo) release, as mentioned above, presents the film at a ratio of 1.33:1. Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1. It may be out of print as RusCiCo no longer mention it on their website. Region 2 definitely has the best extras and possibly the better image, placing it slightly ahead of the others, although its altered aspect ratio certainly weighs against it.
A beautiful and rewarding mood piece.
Video is not quite up to scratch but adequate.
Audio is good.
Extra features are almost pointless.
|DVD||Sony DVP-S336, using Component output|
|Display||LG Flatron Widescreen RT-28FZ85RX. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.|
|Speakers||DB Dynamics Belmont Series: Fronts: B50F, Centre: B50C, Rears: B50S, Sub: SW8BR|