The Sweet Hereafter (Beyond Home Ent) (1997)
|Year Of Production||1997|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Atom Egoyan|
Beyond Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The Sweet Hereafter, a 1998 film from Canadian master Atom Egoyan, is a classic movie. Justly regarded as one of the most compelling and insightful dramas of the 1990s it has not previously received a stellar DVD treatment in Region 4. This latest release, unfortunately, dredges a cinematic trench and buries the film.
Egoyan is a lover of the darkness at the edge of the sitting room. His early features, particularly Family Viewing, have a stillness and quiet desperation that are palpable. No better source could exist for an Egoyan film than the novel, The Sweet Hereafter, by Russell Banks. Banks is himself obsessed with tortured lives. His book Affliction was memorably filmed by Paul Schrader and dealt with a man reconciling himself to an abusive upbringing. The Sweet Hereafter is the tale, based on truth, of a bus crash which deprives a small US town of its future - the children.
The film is a personal favourite with a stunning but chilly backdrop and a complex emotional journey for the characters, in particular Ian Holm as a personal injury lawyer who has reached a crisis in his life.
That said, the version of the film provided by Beyond is frankly not worth viewing and certainly not worth reading or writing about.
To explain - the film was released in Region 4 some years ago in a transfer cropped from the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. It drew some criticism at the time for the inevitable compromise of the filmmakers vision. Reviewer ChrisT found it had several shortcomings but was still worth a watch. Imagine my horror, then, to see that the film has been further cropped to a full frame 4:3 for this release. The image quality is (the only plus) slightly better than the original Region 4 release and the sound barely dribbles out at 192Kb/s.
Not every cropped transfer is a disaster.Plenty of films still manage to convey the directors intention even with the missing elbow room. However, Agoyan made this film in widecreen for a reason - to give the environment around his characters a presence. That presence is gone. The fact that I still made it to the end is a tribute to the film and not the DVD.
I urge you to watch the film but I doubly urge you not to watch this version. Buy it from the US.
As said, the film was projected at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Three screenshots below show how the creators of this and the previous transfer gradually chopped away at the film.
Although the scene shown is not particularly visual you can see how the conversation between the two has been made intimate by the cropping and assumed pan&scan. Another two shots show how much visual information has been lost just between the two Region 4 versions.
Region 1 release in Original Aspect Ratio
First Region 4 release
Pan & Scan Beyond Release
First Region 4 release
Pan & Scan Beyond Release
On the positive side the transfer looks sharper that the previous Region 4 incarnation. The film is crammed onto a DVD5 which means that compression is still a factor. The print is clean enough and there are no technical problems with the film.
There are no subtitles.
As said the sound for the film is English Dolby Digital 2.0 strolling at 192 Kb/s.
The Region 1 version has a Dolby Digital 5.1 track. The previous Region 4 had a 2.0 track. Although the film is mostly in dialogue there is a subtle ambience to it that would, I imagine, benefit from a surround track.
As it is the track is adequate but not remarkable.
|Surround Channel Use|
Not a hint of an extra!
Comparing versions is like comparing truffles to toadstools. The Region 1 version has the following extras:
Easy choice as to the best region.
Apologies to those who would have liked a deeper insight into the film in this review. It is just disappointing when, even accepting the budget price, a film deserves so much better. Site policy dictates that a star should be dropped from the Video rating when a transfer has been cropped. I am taking away 2!No word yet as to any Blu-ray release for the film but here is hoping!
|DVD||Pioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output|
|Display||Pioneer 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 Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Speakers||JBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer|