The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)

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Released 12-Feb-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Romance Theatrical Trailer
Rating ?
Year Of Production 1981
Running Time 118:37
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (66:02) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Karel Reisz

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Meryl Streep
Jeremy Irons
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Carl Davis

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Auto Pan & Scan Encoded English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, credits roll over final scene

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Plot Synopsis

    This movie is astonishingly good. It is a dark 'gothic' tale of forbidden love, that never feels the need to play to the lowest common denominator.

    John Fowles' novel The French Lieutenant's Woman has attracted a good deal of literary attention since it was published in 1969. Sometimes referred to as 'experimental', the novel had two different endings. The novel was adapted for the screen by renowned playwright Harold Pinter. Pinter's own work has attracted a great deal of attention, as some describe it as 'absurd', and others 'genius'. Pinter has added a new element to the story of the novel, which makes this movie a little strange, yet compelling. While the novel is set solely in the mid 19th century, Pinter's script has two parallel story lines, in two eras.

    Mike (Jeremy Irons) and Anna (Meryl Streep) are starring in a movie called 'The French Lieutenant's Woman'. This movie is set in mid-nineteenth century England. In this movie, ambitious Charles (Jeremy Irons) is engaged to wealthy Erestina (Lynsey Baxter). All is going well until Charles has a chance meeting with Sarah (Meryl Streep). Sarah is considered to be a 'scarlet woman' and is socially shunned by the townsfolk. Charles is at first driven to distraction by Sarah, but soon he becomes obsessed with her. Meanwhile, there is a parallel storyline between Mike and Anna in the 1980s.

    The direction is superb, and the acting by the two leads is marvellous. There are also a host of great supporting actors, such as Leo McKern. Of note, the cinematography by Freddie Francis is breathtaking. Francis has been the Director of Photography on a variety of movies such as The Elephant Man (1980), Dune (1984), Glory (1989) and Cape Fear (1991). His work here, however, must surely be his best. Many of his shots resemble nineteenth century paintings, and there were a number of scenes that I rewatched simply to enjoy the photography.

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Transfer Quality


    The quality of this transfer is wonderful for its age.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    While the sharpness was a little variable, it was good for the most part. Some scenes, such as the cobbled street, stone wall and greenery at 9:12 contained a great deal of sharp detail. The black level and shadow detail were good, as evidenced by the subtle details in the shot of Sarah sitting in the darkened room at 15:04.

    At times, the colour looked a little washed-out, but this suited the overall 'gothic' look and feel of the movie, and may have been intentional.

    There were a few MPEG artefacts, but nothing to really complain of. There was some very, very mild pixelization, such as in the shot of the sea at 22:57; some mild posterization, such as on Sarah's face at 27:04; and some very, very mild macro-blocking, such as on the door in the background at 36:24. There was also a minor glitch at 45:53, when it appears that there was a temporary loss of data.

    There were no film-to-video Artefacts such as aliasing or telecine wobble to complain of.

    Tiny film artefacts appear throughout the movie, but lessen in frequency as the movie progresses. A smattering of these tiny flecks can be seen between 16:44 and 16:48.

    There are nine sets of subtitles, and the English subtitles are accurate.

    This is a RSDL disc, with the layer change placed during Chapter 10 at 66:02. It is very smooth and as it is between scenes, it is not disruptive.

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


    Apart from the default English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono audio track, there are also four other Dolby Digital 2.0 mono tracks: German, French, Italian, and Spanish.

    The dialogue quality is great and audio sync is reasonable on the default English audio track. Very occasionally, the synching appeared slightly out, such as at 28:30.

    The musical score is credited to Carl Davis who has composed a haunting score utilising strings, and later piano. While at times it sounded slightly melodramatic, it suited the brooding movie very well.

    The Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track was not surround encoded, and thus the surround speakers and subwoofer were not called upon.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The extras are slim.


    A very simple menu, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. It is static and silent.

Theatrical Trailer (1:55)

    This one minute and fifty five second trailer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

R4 vs R1

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

    This title was released on DVD in Region 1 in September 2001.

    The Region 4 DVD misses out on:

    The Region 1 DVD misses out on:

    I would favour the local release for its affordability, and most importantly, its superior PAL image.


    While on some levels this movie is a little 'art-house' and esoteric, I also found it to be very absorbing and accessible. I thoroughly recommend it as an alternative to the 'mindless action flick'. It is possibly the most thought-provoking romantic movie that I have ever seen.

    The video quality is very good.

    The audio quality is reasonable.

    The extras are slim.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Saturday, April 20, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

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