The Sweet Hereafter (Beyond Home Ent) (1997)

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Released 11-Nov-2009

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1997
Running Time 113:00
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Atom Egoyan
Alliance Communictns
Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Ian Holm
Caerthan Banks
Sarah Polley
Tom McCamus
Gabrielle Rose
Alberta Watson
Maury Chaykin
Stephanie Morgenstern
Kirsten Kieferle
Arsinée Khanjian
Earl Pastko
Simon Baker
David Hemblen
Case Amaray-Opaque
RPI $24.95 Music Mychael Danna

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
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

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

Plot Synopsis

    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.

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

Transfer Quality


    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.

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


    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.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Not a hint of an extra!

R4 vs R1

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

    Comparing versions is like comparing truffles to toadstools. The Region 1 version has the following extras:

     The previous Region 4 version had a fair selection of extras:

     This version has the following extras:
     A case with the DVD inside.

     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!

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Friday, January 29, 2010
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

Other Reviews NONE
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