A Time to Love and a Time to Die (Directors Suite) (1958)

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Released 18-Jun-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-by Ross Gibson, Prof. at University of Technology, Sydney
Featurette-Out There in the Dark
Theatrical Trailer-Original theatrical trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1958
Running Time 126:41 (Case: 869)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (80:55) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Douglas Sirk
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring John Gavin
Liselotte Pulver
Jock Mahoney
Don DeFore
Keenan Wynn
Erich Maria Remarque
Dieter Borsche
Barbara Rütting
Thayer David
Charles Régnier
Dorothea Wieck
Kurt Meisel
Agnes Windeck
Case Custom Packaging
RPI $149.95 Music Miklós Rózsa


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.55:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Douglas Sirk once said: "The angles are a director's thoughts. The lighting is his philosophy". This quote has been oft-used by critics to describe his rich use of mise-en-scene in his Technicolor melodrama films, but it is in A Time to Love and a Time to Die that we see Sirk's philosophy come to full fruition on-screen. For just as Magnificent Obsession featured Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman in scenes that featured brightly lit backgrounds juxtaposed with different scenes with dark, dim and shadowy backgrounds to highlight the changing nature of their characters' relationship, so in A Time to Love and a Time to Die we see John Gavin and Liselotte Pulver struggling to make their relationship live in the midst of wartime bombing and the threat of death. Unlike Bob and Helen in Magnificent Obsession, Ernst (played by John Gavin) and Elizabeth (Liselotte Pulver) share their most intimate moments in this film in the dark. It's as if Sirk uses the love of these two ill-fated characters, thanks to war, to show his master hand at the use of irony. Speaking of irony, do take note of the dead soldier found in the snow with his right hand reaching out for something at the beginning of the film. Sirk uses this gesture as a master stroke by the end of the film, as he also does with the execution scene of Russian civilians which also has fuller meaning by the end.

    "This, anyhow, is what enchants me about Sirk: this delirious mixture of medieval and modern, sentimentality and subtlety, tame compositions and frenzied CinemaScope." So wrote none other than Jean-Luc Godard in his praiseworthy review of this film in Cahiers du Cinema magazine in 1958. He also adds: "After (Max Ophuls') Le Plaisir it (A Time to Love and a Time to Die) is the most beautiful title in the whole history of cinema, silent and sound." These sentiments meant a lot to Sirk, firstly because he was written off as banal and against American 1950s culture by American film critics during his Universal years, and secondly, as he quotes Godard on more than one occasion in the French documentary Days with Sirk featuring interviews with Sirk from 1982.

    A Time to Love and a Time to Die was adapted from a novel written and published in German in 1952 by Erich Maria Remarque (who has a cameo role in the film as Professor Pohlmann) who was famous for his great novel, All Quiet on the Western Front. Remarque's novel is entitled Time to Live and Time to Die (in German), however, with its main theme of the difficulties of maintaining normal relationships during wartime. Jean-Luc Godard mentions in his essay on the film how pleased he was that Sirk's adaptation of Remarque's book was changed to 'A Time to Love' (perhaps as a gesture to Sirk's penchant for melodrama). Sirk, I believe, chose this novel to adapt to film because it mirrored his real-life circumstances. Apparently when he married his second wife, Hilde Jary, a Jew, his ex-wife, a Nazi sympathiser, banned Sirk from contact with their son, Klaus. Klaus would go on to die at the Russian front in 1944. Sirk forbade any mention of this part of his life until after his death.

    John Gavin was chosen to play Ernst Graeber, after Sirk wanted Paul Newman. Universal wanted to make John Gavin the new Rock Hudson. Ernst is fighting on the Russian-German Front in 1944, gaining a three-week break to go home to Hamburg. Upon arrival, he finds that his home town is nothing like what he had envisaged. He desperately searches for proof of his family's whereabouts and then meets and falls in love with Elizabeth (Liselotte Pulver), the daughter of a doctor who knew the Graeber family. Realising that they have only a short time together, Ernst and Elizabeth make the most of their relationship prior to Ernst returning to the front.

     The reception of the film surprised Sirk. It was banned in Israel as being sympathetic to Nazis, yet it was a failure in his native Germany despite being anti-Nazi in tone. Sirk had tried to make a film that showed the struggles of a soldier fighting war, yet with a conscience. In 1958, American audiences could not sympathise with Gavin's character, despite Sirk's obvious motif of using American accents for his good German soldiers and German accents for his bad ones. Also, Gavin's performance was very limited in his range and this I believe worked against the movie upon its release. This film was very personal to Sirk, an attempt to move beyond his melodramatic style, in my opinion, but its failure to capture audiences forced Sirk's hand. He returned to his usual melodramatic style for his next film, Imitation of Life, which also proved to be his final film in the Hollywood system.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film was originally shot in a 2:55:1 Cinemascope aspect ratio. Films such as Nicholas Ray's Rebel without a Cause, Max Ophuls' Lola Montes and David Lean's The Bridge on the River Kwai also shared this aspect ratio and were filmed during the era this film was made.

    For this DVD, the aspect ratio is 2:40:1, 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions.

    The average bitrate of the film is 6.67 m/b per sec. It is a little soft in places but otherwise the video transfer is good for its age.

    Russell Metty, Sirk's usual cinematographer, shot the film in Eastmancolor. As the period of the film is winter, 1944, colours are somewhat muted and subdued, although there are moments of bright colour to highlight contrast in the plot.

    The video transfer is free of film artefacts such as dirt, dust and specks. There are some instances of low level noise which manifests itself as slight macro-blocking in scenes with dark backgrounds

    Unfortunately, there are no subtitles for this release.

    The RSDL change occurs at 80:55 during a scene change which fades to black.

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

Audio

    2:55:1 Cinemascope films were usually released with 4-track magnetic stereo soundtracks during the 1950s. Unfortunately, A Time to Live and a Time to Die does not retain its stereo soundtrack for this release. The film was also released with a mono soundtrack during its theatrical run.

    There are two audio tracks on this DVD, the main soundtrack in English and Ross Gibson's audio commentary. Both tracks are encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224 kbps. Dialogue is clear and synchronised. The main soundtrack is free of hiss and crackles and pops.

    Music by Miklós Rózsa is suitably dramatic, especially highlighting tension in the events of the plot.

     There is no surround channel usage as the main soundtrack is in mono. The subwoofer is not utilised either.

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

Extras

Audio commentary by Ross Gibson, Professor of Contemporary Arts, the University of Sydney.

     Ross Gibson's commentary is not as scene-specific as Dr. Mark Nicholls' commentary for Magnificent Obsession for example. Gibson mentions firstly the subdued colour palette of the film, emphasising blues, browns and greys, and the scenes that show strong reds and yellows which signify passions in a sombre setting. He also mentions scenes that are set-up to create tension in the plot but reconcile themselves to being anti-dramatic. When Sirk uses this plot device in a number of sequences, it causes an expectation from the viewer for conflict in an otherwise sombre and bleak film, both visually and metaphorically. Gibson also states how characters ascend and descend in the film, he praises Pulver's performance and makes mention of Sirk's personal situation with his son, Klaus, which influenced his choice to make this film. He also discusses movement in scenes and its significance to Sirk's use of mise-en-scene.

Featurette - Out There in the Dark: Hollywood screenwriter Wesley Strick on Douglas Sirk's secret. (18:49)

     American screenwriter Wesley Strick shares his feelings on Sirk's films and his experiences in leaving Germany in the 1930s. This resulted in his novel, Out There in the Dark, published in 2006 and based on Sirk's experiences in Hollywood.

Theatrical Trailer (2:41)

     The original theatrical trailer is presented unrestored in a 1:85:1 aspect ratio, 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions.

R4 vs R1

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

    A Time to Love and a Time to Die has been released in Region 2 in the United Kingdom and in France. Both releases have similar quality video and audio transfers.

     The Region Free UK Masters of Cinema release includes the theatrical trailer, a pdf of the shooting script and three featurettes: Of Tears and Speed: According to Jean-Luc Godard, in French with English subtitles (11:58), Out There in the Dark: Wesley Strick speaks about Douglas Sirk's secret, in English with removable French subtitles (18:40) and Imitation of Life (Mirage of Life): A Portrait of Douglas Sirk, in German with burned-in French subtitles and optional English subtitles (48:50). A 36-page booklet is also included which discusses the film and the life and work of Douglas Sirk.

     The Region 2 French Carlotta release has the trailer, four featurettes: Des Larmes et de la Vitesse (Of Tears and Speed) in French and with French subtitles during English dialogue (11:57), Assis Dans le Noir (Out there in the Dark) in English with removable French subtitles (18:38), Mirage de la Vie (Imitation of Life): A Portrait of Douglas Sirk, in German with burned-in French subtitles (48:48) and A Conversation with Douglas Sirk by Jon Halliday, in French with no subtitles (14:49).This film is also included on the magnificent Carlotta 8-disc Douglas Sirk Collection, Vol. 1 Box Set with Magnificent Obsession, All That Heaven Allows and Imitation of Life.

     This Region 4 Madman Directors Suite release, which is part of the 9-disc Douglas Sirk King of Hollywood Melodrama Box Set, was previously released as a single-disc standalone DVD on the 18th of June, 2008 with the exact same specifications as the DVD of the film included on this Box Set.

     The best available version of A Time to Love and a Time to Die on DVD therefore is the Region Free Masters of Cinema version which includes English Subtitles for the main feature and its three featurettes.

Summary

    With a compliment of excellent support actors such as Keenan Wynn, Klaus Kinski and Don DeFore and an excellent screenplay from Orin Jannings, adapted from Erich Maria Remarque's 1952 book, A Time to Love and a Time to Die should have been Sirk's breakout film from his melodramatic style of filmmaking. Instead, his reputation preceded him and resulted in the film not making a connection with audiences, unaccustomed to the change in Sirk's filmmaking style for this movie. Despite this, it is still a quality addition to Sirk's film canon, of which he was immensely proud of when interviewed about the movie years later.

     The Region 4 Madman Directors Suite label release is the only version of A Time to Love and a Time to Die on DVD which includes an audio commentary as an extra.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550 (Firmware updated Version 020), using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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