The Mists of Avalon (2001)

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Released 6-Feb-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Listing-Cast & Crew
Gallery-Cast; Costume Design; Storyboards
Deleted Scenes
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 175:41
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Uli Edel
Studio
Distributor
TNT
Warner Home Video
Starring Anjelica Huston
Julianna Margulies
Joan Allen
Samantha Mathis
Caroline Goodall
Edward Atterton
Michael Vartan
Michael Byrne
Hans Matheson
Mark Lewis Jones
Clive Russell
Tamsin Egerton
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $34.95 Music Lee Holdridge


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Dutch
Finnish
Icelandic
Norwegian
Danish
Swedish
Hebrew
Polish
Greek
Czech
Turkish
Hungarian
Romanian
Bulgarian
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

    As the cover says, The Mists Of Avalon is a retelling of the Legend of King Arthur from the perspective of the women that were involved. While this is essentially true it does not begin to describe a film that is the result of influences that span centuries of time. There will be three main groups that may be interested in this DVD.

    The first will be those that have read the book upon which it is based and seen the mini-series on TV and want to know if the transfer is up to scratch. Well, I'll let that group off the hook right away. This is a fantastic transfer with an excellent soundtrack.

    The second will be those that have read the book and are wondering about the mini-series - is it a good representation of the book? Unfortunately, I cannot be definite here as I have not read the book...yet. I will be in the very near future, though, such was the impact of this story. I did some research on the Internet and it appears that while they have had to sacrifice a main character and change the story a little to fit what is a very long book (over 800 pages) into three hours, the consensus in the pagan community seems to be that it still does a good job.

    The last group will be those approaching this with no knowledge of the book or the community from which it sprung and are looking for a story about King Arthur. This group are probably in for the biggest surprise as this is not your traditional telling of the story. I am surprised that there was not more of a fuss surrounding this mini-series, particularly from the group that recently objected to the Harry Potter film, as in their eyes this would be controversial. For the rest, what we have here in my opinion is probably the most compelling version of the Arthurian legend that I have ever seen. While there are a couple of sword fights, and quite good ones at that, this is a story that concentrates on the emotions, motivations and stories of the women of Avalon.

    The first two groups know exactly what they are after. For the last group, I am going to outline what I believe are the influences that have come together to produce this story, as I find them fascinating.

    In historical terms, we actually know very little about Arthur. In fact, he may not even have existed, but that is really of no consequence. What we have is a legend, a golden thread of a story that, like in the old times, a storyteller can take and form to their own telling. The storyteller casts the story against a backdrop that is formed from their own life, understanding and beliefs. The traditional Arthur stories actually come from relatively recent retellings that have become accepted as the 'real story'. It is said that history is written by the winners of a particular conflict, and this is probably true as the traditional stories are slanted by the victors - in this case, the Christian church.

    Taking an historical, not religious view, when Christianity moved into what was then Brittany it was faced with the challenge of an entrenched religion. It moved to supplant the pagan religion on two fronts. The first was to adopt many of the same dates for its festivals. This ensured that the new religion offered the same 'holidays' as the old. The second was a direct attack by demonising the old beliefs and practices - an example being taking the image of the male pagan God and using this as a representation of the devil. It is ironic that many of the 'practices' that the Christian church thought that the pagans practised did not actually exist, but the publicity that they were given has had an influence on the new age revival of the old ways.

    Now we come to modern times. Many are attempting to rekindle the flame of the old religions, but we have little hard information on paganism, witchcraft, druidism and others. We look back through the distortion of history by the very people that were trying to suppress the old ways. The medieval Christians were not known for their sexual equality and have cast the women in the Arthur legend against their world view. The Author of Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley) has told her version against the backdrop of the modern view of the old ways.

    The story as told in the mini-series revolves around the very conflict that would later distort our view of this period. We see the last efforts of the high priestess of the mother goddess, her acolytes and compatriot Merlin, to protect their religion from the Christians. At the same time, the Saxons are invading and a good strong king is needed to unify the English (they are called English in the story even though they are historically Britons) and drive out the Saxon invaders.

    We follow the decisions that the Women of Avalon take and the price they pay for those decisions as they attempt to save both England and their religion. The tale has been told from a mystical point of view, but the characters appear as very real people and this is part of the reason that this version is so compelling.

    I have chosen not to say too much about the actual storyline, as discovering how this telling differs from others is part of the fun.

    It is not just the story that makes this a great mini-series, though. All of the actors give great performances, the scenery is fantastic, the production values are very high and the costumes are excellent.

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

Transfer Quality

Video

    This is pretty much a reference quality transfer. The only thing that mars the image is a very small amount of grain.

    We are presented with a 1.78:1 transfer that is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is pin sharp throughout. There are a couple of spots where the focus in the source material could have been a little better but this is a very minor point. Shadow detail is excellent and there is no low level noise.

     The colours are excellent, with the palette chosen having a very earthy feel. The saturation is excellent as are the skin tones. There is no chroma noise.

    There are no MPEG artefacts present nor any aliasing nor telecine wobble. There are a small number of black and white flecks but these don't distract. There is some grain present but again this does not really affect the final image.

    There are a multitude of subtitles including English and English for the Hearing Impaired. I watched both these and while they are positioned a little high, they were easy to read and accurate. The English for the Hearing Impaired included the name of the speaker if off screen and other information. This meant that occasionally they had to paraphrase the dialogue to fit it all on screen.

    This is an RSDL disc, with the layer change very well hidden - so well hidden that I could not locate it.

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

Audio

    The audio track is a fine match to the video. While this is not a blockbuster soundtrack, it is 5.1 and works perfectly for this film.

    There are two audio tracks, both Dolby Digital 5.1: one in English and the other in French. I listened to the English which is the default.

    There are no problems with the dialogue which is clear throughout. There were a couple of occasions where the ADR was a little out but you had to be looking to notice.

    There were no problems with the audio sync of the transfer.

    The music that accompanies this film is great. If you are a fan of Celtic music then you are in for a treat. Both vocal and instrumental music is used to great effect.

    The surrounds are in constant use, both to expand the soundstage of the music and to add ambience such as in the scenes in the forest. There are also some subtle split effects.

    The subwoofer was in use and supported the soundtrack very well, but did not draw attention to itself.

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

Extras

   

Menu

    The menu is a simple picture from the film accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack that runs for 1:53.

Additional Scenes

    Seven scenes that were deleted for various reasons. They run one after the other with a very brief text screen that explains why they were left out. They are presented at 1.33:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. The quality here is a little variable with some scenes quite soft and in one the audio is distorted.

Family Tree

    A clever page that shows the family tree of the story - the relationships between the characters and their lineage. You can select each of the characters and move to a page with a larger picture and a very short description of the character along with the name of the actor playing the character.

Costumes

    Four pages showing some of the concept drawing for the costumes. You can either allow each page to move on after 10 seconds or press the chapter skip button.

Storyboards

    Twelve pages showing some of the storyboards. The authoring here is a little different to that of the costumes pages. Allowing this one to sit moves you back to the menu after 10 seconds - you must use the chapter skip buttons to move to the next page.

Cast and Crew Listing

    Two pages outlining the cast and crew. If this is the cast profiles mentioned on the rear of the cover it is not what we normally expect, with only two lines for each character: the character's name and the actor's name.

R4 vs R1

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

    The Region 4 version of the disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;

    It would seem to me that cost and the added resolution of a PAL transfer would put Region 4 in front.

Summary

    The Mists Of Avalon is the sort of film that is going to polarise viewers. The differences from the accepted telling of the Arthurian legend are going to upset some, the pace will be slow for others and the views expressed will probably boil the blood of some. On the other hand, only a strong story with great depth can really do this. Julianna Margulies' (ER) portrayal of Morgaine is superb as is the rest of the cast's performances.

    The video quality is excellent

    The audio is subdued but very effective.

    The extras are interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Thursday, February 07, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252Q CRT Projector, 254cm custom built 1.0 gain screen. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationSony STR-DB1070
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

Other Reviews
Jeff K's Australian DVD Info Site - Jeff K
DVDAnswers - Warwick G
DVD Net - Anthony H (read my bio)

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