Oliver Twist (2005)

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Released 1-Nov-2006

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2005
Running Time 124:35
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Roman Polanski
Studio
Distributor

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Barney Clark
Jeremy Swift
Ian McNeice
Richard Durden
Timothy Bateson
Andy de la Tour
Filip Hess
Andreas Papadopoulos
Laurie Athey
Joseph Tremain
Peter Copley
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $39.95 Music Rachel Portman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Oliver Twist remains one of the most popular novels of Charles Dickens for translation to the screen, both big and small. The reasons are perhaps that it has a collection of some of the most memorable characters in all literature - including the pompous Mr Bumble, the evil Bill Sykes and the grotesque Fagin.

    Director Roman Polanski brings a lot of his own baggage to this 2005 adaptation of Oliver Twist. As a child in Poland he was forced to struggle in the Krakow Ghetto when his parents were taken away to concentration camps. So he certainly knows a thing or two about the poverty, hunger and crime that lie at the core of the Oliver story. What is interesting is that working with adapter Ronald Harwood he has created an Oliver that stresses the boy's relationship with the two key men in his life, the good Browning and the bad Fagin.

    For the uninitiated, Oliver Twist is a poor workhouse boy. Conditions are hard and compassion is non-existent. After drawing the short straw and asking for more food he is sold off to an undertaker as an apprentice. He is forced to flee this job after he fights with the evil apprentice undertaker. With nowhere else to go he starts a long walk to London where he falls in with a gang of child thieves led by Fagin and spearheaded by the Artful Dodger and Charley Bates. After a bungled robbery Oliver is mistaken for the offender and caught by the police. The victim, Mr Browning, takes pity on the boy and takes him to live in his house. However, Fagin panics, thinking that the boy may turn him in. He turns to a former child thief, now hardened criminal, Bill Sykes, to kidnap Oliver and bring him back to the gang of thieves. The job done, Bill puts Oliver to work as an assistant in a housebreaking with disastrous consequences. Oliver's life is on the line and it remains to be seen whether he will find his way to happiness or to a watery grave.

    In adapting any lengthy book to the screen there is a need to make shortcuts and cut out redundant plotlines. As with the musical Oliver! Harwood drops the whole inheritance plotline where Oliver is found to be the long-lost son of a lord. The Maylie family who take Oliver in after he is shot are dropped entirely and Oliver is shot during a bungled raid on the Browning mansion. In my view the changes do little harm to the overall story, taking out the more unbelievable plotlines and keeping the themes clear and easy to follow. This is, as said, a story about Oliver, Browning and Fagin.

    Polanski used the same crew that worked on The Pianist which perhaps accounts for the whole holocaust feel of the workhouse and dirty London. The film was actually shot in Czechoslovakia using an all British cast. Virtual newcomer Barney Clark plays Oliver and looks the part as well as providing a nice turn in a role that really just requires a lot of looking scared and hungry. The show stands or falls on its Fagin and Sir Ben Kingsley adds another notch in his belt with this fascinating account of the great role. His Fagin is not so much the Jewish caricature as is often played. He is stooped, slightly introspective and quietly spoken with the hint of a lisp. The role is underplayed for a change with gives his character more depth. Make no mistake, though, he is still as dirty as the streets of Soho.

    The exclusion of the inheritance plotline means that the familiar Mr Bumble is only briefly seen. Jamie Foreman as Bill Sykes is a straight out thug, rather than something diabolical, and Leanne Rowe is nicely cast as the doomed Nancy, Bill's long-suffering but loyal squeeze.

    Polanski says in the special features that he wanted the film to be suitable for his children which is perhaps why some of the cruelty is toned down. His London may be dark and dirty at times but it is not the virtual Hades seen in some other productions. There is much to like in this earnest retelling of the story.

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Transfer Quality

Video

   Oliver Twist is presented on DVD in a 2.40:1 transfer which is close to its 2.35:1 original aspect ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    As might be expected from a recent feature film this is a nice clean transfer with no physical defects to the print at all. The colours are generally brown and grey but Polanski and his cinematographer Pavel Edelman use subtle lighting to good effect. Check out the fireside scene at 26:00 to see the nice contrast and warm lighting. This is a film with a lot of fog but there were no compression problems on any of these scenes. The only problem I did notice was a slight overexposure in some of the scenes in Fagin's den, particularly when crossing back and forth between characters. It was only the contrast between the look of the film that raised this problem. It is extremely minor. Grain is very minimal.

    There are subtitles including subtitles for the hearing impaired which give a good account of on-screen dialogue and action.

    All in all a nice transfer remarkable for its subtle contrasts rather than spectacular colours.

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

Audio

    Oliver Twist has a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 384 Kb/s.

    In truth the surrounds are not really needed as this is a dialogue focussed film. I did notice some nice surround work in a street scene at 29:01 with carts passing by and jumped when Bullseye the dog barked at 1:43 but otherwise the sound mainly kept to the middle.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand. Ben Kingsley does make the audience work to keep up with his lines but it is not muddled. A generally good mix.

    The music for the film was composed by multiple Oscar nominee Rachel Portman and is another fine orchestral score from her. The music is constant throughout the film and adds to the dramatic weight of the piece even if the themes aren't instantly memorable.

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

Extras

     This DVD contains a number of extras.

Main Menu Animation

    This is a rather attractive screen featuring a small book showing a loop of scenes from the movie, accompanied by some film music.

Twist by Roman Polanski 28.36

    This is an extensive making of feature. It features interviews with all the main cast, particularly the children. WC Fields' old adage 'never work with children or animals' was apparently unproven in relation to the children but true when it came to the actor dog playing Bullseye, who proved difficult to control at times. Polanski talks in detail about his ideas and desires with this film. He wanted to make it for his children and create a film which is both lifelike and at times larger than life.

The Best of Twist 17.47

    This is a more precise making of feature and looks at the sets, the costumes and the photography for the film. Allan Stanski, Production Designer details all the work that went into putting the sets together. Fortunately for all involved the studio in Prague, where the film was made, had a large empty backlot which enabled Polanski to create entire city streets. The final London was so lifelike that the kids speak of knocking on all the doors to see if anyone would answer! Costuming the film was a major effort. The Costume Designer found that there were simply not enough 'workhouse boy' costumes available anywhere so they were all created from scratch. Interestingly enough, Barney Clark as Oliver found the poor boy rags more comfortable than the 'junior toff' costume he wore. Polanski tells the story of how he introduced some oversized shoes for Oliver based on an incident from his own past. Cinematographer Pawel Edelman talks about the level of detail that Polanski required to create a London teeming with life filled with larger than life characters.

Kidding with Twist 5.41

    This is a feature with Barney Clark. Polanski explains in the beginning that when searching for Oliver he wanted a child who was not too cute and gave off intelligence as well as a sense of melancholy. In this feature Clark reads from his on-set diary. He says that the best part of shooting was the dangerous roof top scenes and the worst part was getting wet by fake rain and having to scrabble around in a hay bale. A year later he is shown on a press junket having undergone a considerable growth spurt.

There are 3 trailers included on the DVD.

The International Trailer 2.01

    This is a lengthy summary of the elements from the film.

Teaser Trailer .37

    This features the chase scene where Oliver is pursued for the theft of Browning's handkerchief.

Teaser Trailer .38

    This shows the poor house dining room scene and its effects.

R4 vs R1

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

    The versions of this DVD available in the various regions appear to be practically identical although there are some reported cuts to a scene of Sykes beating Nancy in the UK Region 2 version. The French Region 2 has a DTS soundtrack which would have been nice but it has burnt in French subtitles on the print.

Summary

    Oliver Twist by Roman Polanski is a bright and bustling version of the Oliver story, clocking in at a brisk 2 hours. The DVD transfer is very pleasing, particularly in the use of lighting. The extras are reasonably comprehensive. Given Polanski's thick accent, this is one DVD where a director's commentary might not have been much fun!

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DVR 630H-S, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TH-50PV60A 50' Plasma. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX - SR603
SpeakersOnkyo 6.1 Surround

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