Manufactured Landscapes (2006)

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Released 5-Nov-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Additional Footage-(39.26)
Interviews-Crew-Director - Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky (19.06)
Interviews-Crew-Cinematographer -Peter Mettler (5.20)
Gallery-Photo-With Commentary by Edward Burtynsky
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 82:00 (Case: 90)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jennifer Baichwal

Madman Entertainment
Starring Edward Burtynsky
Case Custom Packaging
RPI ? Music Dan Driscoll

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Varies Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis


"An extraordinarily haunting, beautiful, insightful touching and thought-provoking film."

Al Gore

Edward Burtynsky - Manufactured Landscapes is Volume Six in the remarkable Arthouse series from Madman Entertainment.

The film is a documentary of sorts. Perhaps, more appropriately it is a showcase of the work of this amazing artist. Burtynsky is a Canadian photographer who specializes in capturing images of man-made environment,the manufactured landscapes of the title.

The way Burtynsky tells it (he is the only "narrator" in this documentary) he is not pushing a green agenda rather just expressing his fascination with the effect that man has had on the World. Therefore, we see superpits and industrial lakes, the ship stripping beaches off Bangladesh and piles of deceased computer components being melted for their valuable metals in China.

In fact, China is a special interst of Burtynsky. The film begins with one of the most startling beginnings I can recall. A slow, lazy eyed journey along the production lines of a gigantic Chinese factory. After a few minutes the scale of the enterprise becomes apparent. After almost 8 minutes it is a sobering insight into the human assembly line of the new powerhouse.

Despite Burtynsky's open-handed protestations the sense of waste is palpable throughout the film. Although it is presented in a dispassionate fashion, I challenge anyone not to blush at the thought of that unused PC sent to landfill which found its way into the villages of China and then, inevitably, into the waterways to poison them seemingly beyond repair.

The images below perhaps gives an insight into the works of Burtynsky.



In the 90's Burtynsky spent considerable time photographing in China. His "special subject" was the Three Gorges Dam. Not only did the unbelievable scale of the project entrance him but, perhaps more so the rapid dismantling of the human settlements in the flood plain of the new dam. Huge communities were taken apart, brick by brick, and Burtynsky captured the eerie sight of the forced retreat.

The great skill of Burtynsky is to take a vista such as the Shanghai skyline and find a point of deep meaning.

This film is a must see for fans of modern art and in particular photography. It is also required viewing for those who are interested in the Green angle. Be warned, however, there is not a trace of Hollywood in this film and its effect, late in the evening, can be somewhere between hypnotic and soporific.

The work of Edward Burtynsky can certainly invoke criticism - after all, does he have a moral duty to present his images in an uglier fasion? The filmmaker deliberately chose not to dedicate part of the runtime to this debate. There is no doubt that the influence of Burtynsky is pervasive - check out the latest Big Day Out poster for the influences. Ultimately, the film stands on it's own as a work of art. It won the Jury Prize at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    Edward Burtynsky - Manufactured Landscapes is presented on DVD in a 1.85:1 transfer. It is 16x9 enhanced.

Aside from the photographs, which are letterboxed according to their original aspect the film is composed of Super 16mm film blown up to 35mm for cinematic release.

The image quality is as one might expect from Super 16mm. The picture lacks sharpness and there is grain to be seen, mild though it is, throughout. The colours look a little washed out however this seems to reflect the environments under examination. Some of the footage is in black and white and treated to make it appear historical. Otherwise the general image quality is quite good and there are no artefacts to be seen.

The overall effect of the light grain is not distracting at all and fans of the film will not be disappointed with the quality of the images on show. What is amazing is the detail present in some of Burtynsky's original photos. At times the camera absorbs the detail in a solitary figure on a road only to pull back and show that we are seeing only a fragment of the larger picture.

There are subtitles for the hearing impaired which give a good account of on-screen action. There are also burned in subtitles for some of the sequences in China.

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


    Edward Burtynsky - Manufactured Landscapes carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack running at 448 Kb/s and a 2.0 track at 224 Kb/s.

Given that there is little surround encoded information in the show apart from the ambient soundtrack it seems a bit of an overkill and the 2.0 track is perfectly acceptable. The dialogue in the film, which is sparsely placed, is easy to hear.

The music, by electronic composer Dan Driscoll (aka ARIA)is on the acceptable side of avant garde. It consists of shifting, disconcerting undercurrents topped with bleeps and burbles that from time to time sound like scratches. It is pretty much ambient and won't scare anyone off but it is as unsettling at times as the images on offer. No doubt that was the point.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


There are a number of excellent extras on this DVD.

To begin with the packaging includes an artistically designed slipcase in a slim line style.

Additional Footage-(39.26)

There are 6 extended scenes on offer with optional commentary by director Baichwal. Each is worth a watch. With the exception of one scene, shot at a Technology Enterprise Design Conference in 2005, all are from China. The TED material was cut (although some of Burtynsky's talk at the Conference did make the cut) because it raised a paradox. The Conference was awash with computer technology which would probably have made it to the illegal dumps in China, featured in the film!

The Chinease segments are varied. There is an extended house tour with Diana Liu, the face of New Capitalism in China, which the filmmaker felt made her a figure of fun in its longer form. Her bathroom, surely 10x4m is a sight to behold!

Of the China footage there is a long (15 minute) extended scene of the town of Wushan which became largely submerged by the Three Gorges Dam. The director, quite rightly, felt that the film had enough images to refect the sense of loss without labouring the point.

With the exception of the Wushan segment (and a short karaoke bar bit) the extended scenes are about 5 minutes each. All are worth watching and Baichwal's trenchant commentary is mandatory.

Interviews-Crew-Director - Jennifer Baichwal and Edward Burtynsky (19.06)

Interviewer Robert Goddard poses a number of curly questions to director and subject. The first is a real brain tickler. To what extent does the photographer have authorship over the image when the subject is simply an environment and not a staged scene? Director and photographer are both keen, capable speakers able to provide intelligent responses to this and other questions. The deliberate choice by Baichwal was not to expose Burtynsky to the criticisms levelled at him, that he beautifies the devastation, because she felt that it would unbalance the film. Goddard is no shrinking violet. He asks Burtynsky whether the film will simply sell more of his work. Burtynsky answers like a true artist - only if the work is good enough.

This is a great interview with two intelligent subjects who are able to enlighten and deepen the film with their comments.

Interviews-Crew-Cinematographer -Peter Mettler (5.20)

In this brief interview Robert Goddard poses the interesting question: how does a cinematographer do justice to the ideas of a still photographer? The answer seems to be - work closely with him and the director during the filming process to try to let the pictures convey their meaning.

Gallery-Photo-With Commentary by Edward Burtynsky

This is an excellent feature. We are able to view a slideshow of photographs at our leisure. Each is described by Burtynsky in some detail. He gives some background as to where the photograph fell in his creative life, as well as when he took it and a little about the set-up for the shot and his overall artistic intentions.

Each of his commentaries is about a minute or two long. There are 43 photographs in the Manufactured Landscape Series and 32 in the China Series so the overall extra is an essential 2 hours plus of viewing. For my part the sequence of photos of ship-breaking in Chittagong, Bangladesh are the most stunning when coupled with Burtynskys description of the brutal work and environmental devastation wrought by this practice.

To his great credit Burtynsky is a direct and unpretentious artist and his commentary dispenses with semiotics yet helps in understanding his vision.

Theatrical Trailer (2.00)

The theatrical trailer is a pretty good introduction to the film.

R4 vs R1

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

    This DVD has been issued in Regions 1 and 2. The only addition to the other packages is a talk by the director at a conference. Whilst this would have been nice to have on our local release I would still recommend the Region 4.


    Edward Burtynsky - Manufactured Landscapes is a truly thought provoking film that presents without preaching.

This is no cutting edge transfer but it does serve the material well.

The extras are of a high standard and are almost indispensible viewing.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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