Anima Mundi (1992) (NTSC)

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary None
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1992
Running Time 29:46
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Godfrey Reggio
Studio
Distributor
Simitar DVD Starring None Given
Case Jewel
RPI $24.95 Music Philip Glass


Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Anima Mundi is yet another result of the collaboration of director Godfrey Reggio and composer Philip Glass, whose previous films include Koyaanisqatsi (1983) and Powaqqatsi (1988). Unlike the -qatsi films though, which are feature length (over 90 minutes) in duration, Anima Mundi is a relatively short film (29:46 minutes). The team is currently trying to raise money to produce another -qatsi film, Naqoyqatsi, scheduled for release in 2002.

    For those of you are familiar with the -qatsi films, you will know exactly what to expect from Anima Mundi. To those of you yet to see either of the -qatsi films, I strongly urge you to track down either of them, though they may be hard to find these days. As far as I know, neither film is available on DVD or video as of 15 January 2001. I have an old PAL video of Koyaanisqatsi bought in the UK over 12 years ago - I suspect this is long out of print although there are rumours that Koyaanisqatsi may be out on DVD in Australia in the near future. The closest equivalent to Anima Mundi available on DVD is probably Baraka (1992), directed by Ron Fricke (who was also responsible for the cinematography in Koyaanisqatsi).

    All of the above films share a common set of characteristics. Basically, the films consist of a sequence of beautifully shot images and scenes of natural landscapes, objects, animals or people accompanied by music but no dialogue, kind of like a wordless documentary. The set of images and scenes can be in real-time, slow motion or speeded up (using time lapse photography).

    Each of the -qatsi films have tried to project an underlying apocalyptic message through the montage of images. Koyaanisatsi, subtitled "Life Out of Balance", is about the collision of urban life/technology with the natural environment. Powaqqatsi continues the theme but focuses more on the Third World natives and how they seek to master both nature and technology, and the new film Naqoyqatsi will deal with how man seeks to conquer nature through technology and civilization. Unlike the -qatsi films, however, Anima Mundi is more plotless in nature. If it does project a message, it is probably more a celebration of the incredible diversity of biological life on this planet rather than an apocalyptic theme.

    Someone who doesn't know Italian might be tempted to think Anima Mundi translates into "Animal World" but Anima = Soul and Mundi = World so the translation is actually "The Soul Of The World".

    There are only 5 chapters in the presentation of this film on DVD. Each chapter seems to concentrate on a specific "theme":

    Because of its shorter duration, Anima Mundi may be a gentler introduction to this type of dialogue-less documentary for some viewers, but I find Anima Mundi not as satisfying to watch as the -qatsi films.

    The ending of Anima Mundi contains the following quote, translated into several different languages (my guess based on the alphabets and words used would be, in order: Italian, Chinese - Mandarin, French, Arabic, Spanish, Japanese, German, Hebrew and English):

The Breath, The Life, The Spirit, The Soul of the World

"...this world is indeed a living being endowed with soul and intelligence"

- Plato, Timeus

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This is one of the earliest DVDs released and the quality of the transfer leaves much to be desired. The transfer seems to have been taken from a video master intended either for video tape duplication or at best laserdisc. There are lots of video artefacts apparent in the transfer - colour bleeding, low level video noise, lack of vertical resolution (a tell-tale sign is that pressing PAUSE generally results in a still that looks terrible).

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, with no 16x9 enhancement. The lack of 16x9 enhancement also contributes to the poor level of sharpness or detail.

    Fortunately, colour saturation seems to be acceptable, with a tendency towards a reddish hue, and shadow detail seems consistent with overall detail.

    The film source itself is not pristine, but acceptable. There are minor film artefacts (mainly dust and scratches) throughout the entire presentation. There is a blue mark on the right edge of the screen at 15:12 that looks like a film artefact but I am not sure. There is some telecine wobble present in the transfer.

    The transfer rate hovers at or below 5Mb/s. There is a lot of MPEG ringing in the titles at the beginning, but surprisingly it was hard to detect any MPEG artefacts in the transfer (then again, the source quality is so poor that it's hard to tell).

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

Audio

    There is only one audio track on this disc, Linear PCM 2.0 at 48kHz/16 bits resolution. In theory, this should yield CD-like quality but I was not very impressed with the audio transfer. Although there are no obvious audio glitches, the transfer on the whole lacks the "sparkle" and clarity of a well-mastered CD. The audio track may have been derived from the video master, which may be in analogue. The audio track seems to be mastered at a relatively low level, far softer than that of an average CD.

    As the audio track is in 2 channels, the surround channels and sub-woofer are not activated during the presentation. However, if you can force your audio decoder to apply Dolby Pro-Logic decoding on the PCM stream, you should be able to recover some surround information as the film was released in Dolby Stereo. On my system, I can detect some ambience reproduced in the surround speakers when I switch Dolby Pro Logic decoding on.

    The music by Philip Glass will either enthral or annoy you, depending on your attitude towards minimalist music. If you haven't heard Philip Glass compositions before, he tends to reuse the same stock phrases and chords over and over again in a loop, so the orchestration and polyphony plays a larger role in the appreciation of the music as opposed to melodic or harmonic progression. I find the music in Anima Mundi fairly representative of his work, and suits the film well. However, it does not compare in inventiveness or intensity with the soundtracks to the -qatsi films.

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

Extras

    There are no extras on this disc. The menus are letterboxed, and consist of scene selections. The top level menu allows you to select between "Continuous Play" and "Scene Access", but on my DVD player the Continuous Play option does not seem to do what it suggests - at the end of the film, the DVD player does not revert back to the beginning but enters STOP mode.

R4 vs R1

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

    This DVD is the same the world over and is formatted for NTSC displays.

Summary

    Anima Mundi, for me, is a nice short film for fans of the -qatsi genre of non-verbal documentaries. It is presented on a minimalist DVD with a poor video transfer and mediocre audio transfer. The DVD has no extra features whatsoever.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Christine Tham (read my biography)
Monday, January 15, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-626D, using Component output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (203cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVR-3300
SpeakersFront left/right: B&W DM603; centre: B&W CC6S2, rear left/right: B&W DM601

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