Shadow Play: The Making of Anton Corbijn (Arthouse Films) (2009)

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Released 19-Oct-2011

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Theatrical Trailer-(2.43)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2009
Running Time 76:00
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Josh Whiteman

Madman Entertainment
Starring Bono
Helena Christensen
Anton Corbijn
Brandon Flowers
Gavin Friday
David Gahan
Fran Healy
Chris Martin
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music None Given

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 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

     In Shadow Play: The Making of Anton Corbijn writer and director George Whiteman attempts the impossible - getting inside the mind of renowned photographer and filmmaker Anton Corbijn. Though the film fails to answer the question- (who is Anton Corbijn?), it is perhaps no failure at all. After all,Corbijn has made a career out of capturing the indefinable essence of his subjects without, it seems, he or the celebrities he has photographed understanding how he does it.

     Shadow Play looks at the life and career of this talented artist. So far as life goes, however, we learn very little. The son of a minister of religion he borrowed his father's camera on 28 August 1972 to photograph a band playing in his native Holland. From this humble beginning he became the chief photographer for so many Dutch bands until his devotion to gloomy black and white images saw him fall foul of the record companies. He made the break to the UK to start a career.

     As it turned out, the Netherlands’ loss was the UK 's gain as Corbijn found the music scene in Britain to be synonymous with his images. He and Joy Division became forever intertwined with his photographs of the band prior to the death of Ian Curtis assuming iconic status. The connection went far beyond these photographs. Not only did Corbijn eventually make a posthumous video for Atmosphere but in 2007 he directed Control, a film about the life and death of Curtis and the emergence of Joy Division. The film Shadow Play was assembled after Control had premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and much of this documentary charts the life of the film from pre-production, through casting and shooting, to eventual release.

    Joy Division was not his only iconic association, of course. Even those who have never heard of Anton Corbijn would be aware of these images. As a photographer for the New Musical Express, he came to shoot just about every rising and falling star forming a lengthy associations with Nick Cave and others, particularly U2 and Depeche Mode. In some ways U2 owe their icon status to Corbijn as expressed in the various record covers he shot including The Unforgettable Fire and the ubiquitous The Joshua Tree.

     Interviewees, in particular Michael Stipe of REM are not just gushing in their praise; they are fascinated with his ability to capture the moment. The film was made in 2009 and therefore proceeded Corbijn's latest feature film The American starring George Clooney. That existentialist hit man movie may not have lit up the box office but it did continue to enhance his reputation as an intelligent filmmaker.

     Shadow Play is a fascinating documentary for those with an interest in the photographic medium.

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Transfer Quality


Shadow Play is comprised of numerous sources gathered together into a 1:78.1 image. It is 16x9 enhanced.

     The photographs, video clips and interviews are cobbled from a variety of sources with corresponding levels of image quality. The early video materials look suitably atrocious in particular the two shelved U2 video clips. Similarly the interview footage with Kurt Cobain lacks sharpness. Amongst the modern footage there is also a variety of quality. Supermodel Helene Christensen is not well shot whereas the interview footage with Corbijn in his home in the Netherlands is very crisp and detailed with clear and accurate colours and precise flesh ones.

     All in all the image quality cannot really be criticised and documentary fans will have no particular concerns.

    There are no subtitles.

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


     Shadow Play carries only one soundtrack, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track running at 224 Kb/s. The soundtrack is perfectly adequate for the documentary.

     The film consists of numerous talking head interviews which are generally clear and easy to understand. The only exception, ironically, is Anton Corbijn himself who speaks with the best Dutch accent since Goldmember! It can be a little difficult to understand him at times.

     Music, unsurprisingly, comes from a variety of sources with the emphasis on Joy Division, U2 and Depeche Mode.

     There are no technical problems with the sound transfer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Theatrical Trailer

     The only extra is the theatrical trailer.

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 yet to be released in Region 1.


     Shadow Play is perhaps best seen as though a retrospective of the work of Anton Corbijn together with the recollections of his many subjects. He is a genuine artist with a strong sense of fidelity to his idea. Never is this clearer than when the editor of a New Musical Express points out that when Corbijn returned from a band photo shoot he would often present three photographs in place of the customary five rolls of film. Holding up one image of an unrecognisable rock star with his back to the camera the editor expresses his exasperation - what the hell is this? The answer, of course, is an Anton Corbijn photo.

     The video and sound quality of the DVD are fine. No extras

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Friday, November 25, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. 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.
AmplificationPioneer SC-LX 81 7.1
SpeakersAaron ATS-5 7.1

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