Sweetie (Directors Suite) (1989)

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Released 12-Nov-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Drama Audio Commentary-Jane Campion, Gerard Lee and Sally Bongers
Theatrical Trailer-Sweetie
Teaser Trailer-Madman Director's Suite Trailers
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1989
Running Time 95:22
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jane Campion
Madman Entertainment
Starring Geneviève Lemon
Karen Colston
Tom Lycos
Jon Darling
Dorothy Barry
Michael Lake
Andre Pataczek
Jean Hadgraft
Paul Livingston
Louise Fox
Ann Merchant
Robyn Frank
Bronwyn Morgan
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Martin Armiger

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English 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

     While tales of dysfunctional families aren't particularly new in the world of cinema, Sweetie has a distinctive air of originality, which sets it apart from the usual. Jane Campion's debut feature is especially idiosyncratic, which is due in some part to cinematographer, Sally Bongers' wonderful framing. Her unconventional approach to the composition of many scenes reflects the personality of the characters and accentuates the offbeat events in the narrative. (Incidentally, Sweetie was the first Australian 35mm feature film to be shot by a woman).

    The film was written by old film school friends, Jane Campion and Gerard Lee, (in fact, they were romantically linked at the time). The eccentric style of the film generally appealed to "art" audiences and Sweetie won acclaim from many within the film world. At the AFI (Australian Film Institute) Awards of the same year, it received five nominations, winning just the one for Best Original Screenplay. Also that year, Sweetie's reputation was enhanced globally with positive interest at Cannes, where it received a nomination for the Palme d'Or.

    Kay (Karen Colsen) is hopelessly superstitious and desperate to find her soul mate. She is told by a tea leaf reader that her man of destiny will have a question mark somewhere on his face. Kay is shocked to discover that the man in "question" is actually a work colleague who is engaged to another work colleague. Naturally, Kay has little choice than to steal the man away and soon Louis (Tom Lycos) has fulfilled the prophecy. However, thirteen months later their relationship is having problems - they are more like brother and sister than lovers. To throw fuel on the fire, Kay's troubled sister, Dawn - aka Sweetie (Genevieve Lemon) arrives un-announced with her boyfriend, Bob (Michael Lake) and they take up residence in Kay's house.

    Sweetie has psychological issues; many of which seem to stem from her childhood. She is on a delicate mental balance and is susceptible to throwing childish tantrums at any time. If this isn't enough for Kay to deal with, her father, Gordon (Jon Darling) also arrives on her doorstep carrying a large supply of frozen home-cooked meals. His wife and the girls' mother, Flo (Dorothy Barry ) has decided on a trial separation. This hits Gordon pretty hard, but he is determined to win her back. But, just as things begin to look up for everyone, Sweetie is discovered naked in the old treehouse and she refuses to budge. All efforts to encourage her down fail and the once stable structure from their childhood years moves closer to collapsing.

    Campion and Lee's screenplay alludes to many issues, but ultimately reveals little about the causes for Sweetie's troubled mind. This ambiguity works well with the story and allows the audience to make their own assessments.

    Sweetie is original, confronting and occasionally, quite funny. The unconventional style may not appeal to everyone, but this is the film that introduced the world to a very talented filmmaker.

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

Transfer Quality


    Sweetie is presented in the correct aspect ratio of 1.85:1, which is 16x9 enhanced.

    The film has been transferred from a high definition source (supervised by Sally Bongers and approved by Jane Campion), so as you'd expect, it's quite striking. The degree of sharpness obtained here is probably the best possible under this format. Blacks were free from any noise issues and shadow detail was excellent.

    At times the Art Direction by Peter Harris has a surreal ambience. The colour palette is predominately shades of green, which feature in most of the interiors. These colours are contrasted well with the vibrant reds of lampshades, carpets and such. All the colours are beautifully balanced and appeared totally natural.

    There were no MPEG artefacts in the transfer. Film-to-video artefacts were kept in check and film artefacts weren't evident.

    English subtitles for the hearing impaired are available on this DVD. They are easily legible in bright yellow.

    This disc is DVD 9, dual layer disc. The layer change is well placed at 71:55.

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


    There are three audio tracks available on the DVD, English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s) and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s).

    There were no issues with dialogue quality and audio sync appeared to be accurate.

    The original music score by Martin Armiger is light and lively, providing a good connection with the events on screen. There is also a selection of non-original music used in the film.

    Sweetie is mostly dialogue based, so the Dolby 5.1 mix is not exactly a full-on sound assault. This 5.1 audio track has been re-mixed from the original mono track. The surround channels carried the occasional direct effect, but mostly music and ambient sounds were prominent.

    Likewise, the subwoofer was used predominately during music passages.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use




    The main menu is static, 16x9 enhanced and features a sample of music from the film.


Audio Commentary - Jane Campion (Co-writer and Director), Sally Bongers (Director of Photography) and Gerard Lee (Co-writer )

    Jane and Sally start off the commentary, with Gerard joining in about a third of the way through the film. All three have known each other since film school days, so their conversation is very light-hearted and jovial. As such, on occasion they tend to get side-tracked, but generally speaking, it's an entertaining and informative commentary.

Original Theatrical Trailer

    Sweetie (1:53)   

Director's Suite Trailers

  • The Son (1:40)
  • The Science Of Sleep (2:26)
  • Life Is A Miracle (1:49)
  • Down By Law (2:38)

    R4 vs R1

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

        An R1 edition of Sweetie was released by Criterion in October 2006. As you'd expect from a Criterion release, it has a quality transfer and a full collection of extras. Although I can't directly compare the transfers, it seems likely that both the Criterion and Madman have come from the same source. The audio commentary on the R4 Madman edition is also likely to be the same commentary as the Criterion release.However, apart from these, the Dolby 5.1 audio track and the original trailer, this is where the similarities end.

        The Criterion release also features,

  • "Making Sweetie" - a conversation with Genevieve Lemon and Karen Colston (23 mins)
  • Jane Campion: The Film School Years, an interview with Jane Campion by film critic, Peter Thompson.(20mins)
  • Jane Campion's early short films - An Exercise in Discipline, Peel, Passionless Moments and A Girl's Own Story
  • Image Gallery of production and behind-the-scenes stills
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • A 16 page essay by film scholar Dana Polan

        Despite the Madman release being an excellent edition, it obviously can't match the Criterion in terms of overall presentation.


        Jane Campion's debut feature film is finally released locally on DVD. Sweetie is very original and should strike a cord with those craving a film that's just a little different.

        The video and audio transfers are both very good.

        Apart from the welcome audio commentary, there is little else in the way of extras.



  • Ratings (out of 5)


    © Steve Crawford (Tip toe through my bio)
    Monday, January 12, 2009
    Review Equipment
    DVDJVC XV-N412, using Component output
    DisplayHitachi 106cm Plasma Display 42PD5000MA (1024x1024). Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080i.
    Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
    AmplificationPanasonic SA-HE70 80W Dolby Digital and DTS
    SpeakersFronts: Jensen SPX7 Rears: Jensen SPX4 Centre: Jensen SPX13 Subwoofer: Jensen SPX17

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