Shakespeare In Love

Collector's Edition

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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 1.33:1, Dolby Digital 2.0 (mono)
Rating Other Trailer(s) Yes, 21 TV Spots
Year Released 1998 Commentary Tracks Yes, 2
Commentary Track 1-John Madden (Director)
Commentary Track 2-Donna Gigliotti (Producer), Marc Norman (Screenwriter/Producer), Tom Stoppard (Screenwriter), David Parfitt (Producer), Martin Childs (Production Designer), Geoffrey Rush (Actor), Sandy Powell (Costume Designer), Richard Greatrex (Cinematographer), Judi Dench (Actor), Gwyneth Paltrow (Actor), John Madden (Director), Ben Affleck (Actor), Colin Firth (Actor), and Joseph Fiennes (Actor)
Running Time 118:37 minutes Other Extras Featurette - Shakespeare In Love And On Film (20:51)
Featurette - Academy Award-Winning Costume (2:25)
Deleted Scenes - 4, 1 Alternate Ending, 2 Alternate Versions of Scenes, 1 Outtake
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (75:33)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,4 Director John Madden

Columbia Tristar
Starring Joseph Fiennes
Gwyneth Paltrow
Geoffrey Rush
Colin Firth
Judi Dench
Case Transparent Amaray
RRP $34.95 Music Stephen Warbeck

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages
Region 4
English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384Kb/s)
Soundtrack Languages
Region 2
English (Dolby Digital 5.1, 384Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary 1 (Dolby Digital 2.0 (mono), 192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary 2 (Dolby Digital 1.0, 96Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking No
Region 4
English for the Hearing Impaired Annoying Product Placement No
Region 2
English for the Hearing Impaired

Plot Synopsis

    Shakespeare In Love garnered 7 Academy Awards from 13 nominations. My wife and I saw this movie theatrically, and quite frankly, neither of us could understand what all the fuss was about - we were both bored. It was with some trepidation, therefore, that I sat down to review this movie.

    Well, talk about a turnaround in opinion! I was enthralled from the very start of the movie to the very end this time through it. Joseph Fiennes plays a young Shakespeare, struggling to make ends meet and suffering from a bad case of writer's block. Geoffrey Rush plays Henslow, the owner of the Rose theatre, also struggling to make ends meet. Shakespeare has promised Henslow a comedy - "Romeo and Ethel, The Pirate's Daughter", but the creative juices are stagnant.

    Viola (Gwyneth Paltrow) is a young, affluent woman who loves the theatre dearly, and pines to be an actress. The problem is, in Elizabethan England, women were not allowed onto the theatrical stage as it was considered an act of public lewdness. Viola disguises herself as a man, Thomas Kent, and auditions for Romeo and Ethel. Shakespeare quickly recognizes a great actor when he hears her, and pursues her, not realizing just who she is. He arrives at her estate, and sneaks in. He sees Viola as herself, not recognizing her out of disguise, and is smitten with her beauty, falling head-over-heels in love. The only problem is that she is betrothed to Lord Wessex (Colin Firth), a man she does not love.

    For those of you who are in the least familiar with Romeo and Juliet, you will quickly begin to realize the basic premise of this movie. Shakespeare is a young, poor and fledgling writer with no particular reputation, writing plays based around his life experiences. It is an intriguing concept, and one which works wonderfully well on several levels. There is drama, comedy, passion and tragedy aplenty on offer here. This is deeply moving material, and movie-making at its very best, with wonderful production design, superb costuming, great music and wonderful cinematography. Like a fine red wine, this is a movie to be treasured and savoured.

Transfer Quality


    Warner Advanced Media Operations were responsible for the compression of this disc.

    This is a magnificent transfer, and is the very best that I have ever seen. It is reference quality all the way.

    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer was absolutely razor sharp and crystal clear at all times. The clarity of this transfer is breathtaking to behold, and never once is there even the slightest hint of excessive edge enhancement. This is the closest to film quality that I have ever seen from our beloved 5" disc. Shadow detail was superb, with lots of subtle details visible in the darker areas of the picture, all without the slightest trace of noise.

    The colours were perfectly rendered all of the way through the movie, with a wide variety of colour palettes on display, from the drab browns and greens of the ordinary townsfolk to the sumptuous greens of grass and trees. Drab scenes sometimes cut to scenes of unexpectedly vivid splashes of colour, and these are all perfectly rendered with not the slightest hint of colour bleeding. This disc is absolutely beautiful to look at.

    There were no MPEG artefacts seen. The only film-to-video artefacts that I noticed was some very minor aliasing during the opening pan shot downwards through the Rose theatre, and this was so minor that I suspect no one else will notice it unless you specifically look out for it. Otherwise, this transfer was immaculate in every way, especially impressive considering that 2.35:1 aspect ratio transfers tend to suffer the most of any aspect ratio from aliasing. Film artefacts were basically non-existent, with only two very minor scratches that I saw throughout the entire movie, and you could easily watch through the entire movie without noticing even a single blemish.

    Subtitles can be selected via the remote control, and all subtitles are available via the remote, no matter what Region the DVD player is set to. The subtitle menu, however, is dependent on which Region the DVD player is set to.

    This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change just after the start of Chapter 28, at 75:33. The layer change is acceptable without being particularly good or particularly bad.


    This soundtrack is also superlative, and is also of reference quality.

    The audio tracks available on this DVD are dependent on the Region that the DVD player is set to in the same way as for subtitles. They are selectable via the audio menu, and via the remote control. All audio tracks are selectable via the remote control at all times.

    There are six audio tracks on this DVD; English Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded, Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded, Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded, the first English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital track encoded as 2.0 mono, and the second English Audio Commentary track encoded as Dolby Digital 1.0. I listened to the default English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and to both English Audio Commentary tracks.

    Dialogue was always completely clear and very easy to understand, even when it was competing with ambient surrounding sound effects.

    There were no audio sync problems with this disc.

    The score by Stephen Warbeck is remarkable. It is mainly symphonic in nature, and it is lush and evocative. It fits the on-screen action remarkably well, and is an essential aspect of this movie's overall power. The music soundtrack is discussed briefly during the Director's Commentary track, and it is abundantly clear that a lot of care, thought and effort went into the creation of this score and melding it precisely with the on-screen action.

    The surround channels were frequently in use, mainly for music, though some of the special effects were placed in the rear channels as well. There is a lot of ambience mixed into this soundtrack, mainly in the front soundstage, but with the music aggressively placed into the rear channels, the overall experience is highly enveloping, a remarkable achievement for what is fundamentally a dialogue-driven soundtrack. There is nothing artificial or manufactured-sounding about this soundtrack, which is another major plus.

    The .1 channel was used subtly to support the music, but the nature of the film did not lend itself to anything more than this.


    There is an excellent selection of extras on this disc.


    The menu design is themed around the movie, and is 16x9 enhanced. The only two minor quibbles I have with the menu system is that there are only two scene selections per screen, so selecting a scene late in the movie is somewhat tedious, and the design of the extras menus is a little counter-intuitive, with the extras on the disc spread over three menus - this is not immediately obvious at first glance.

Audio Commentary - John Madden (Director)

    This is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 (mono). It starts off quite slowly, with John more-or-less describing what he is watching, but then after about 15 minutes, the commentary significantly improves and becomes more interesting. It is a reasonable commentary track, but not the very best one that I have heard.

Audio Commentary - Donna Gigliotti (Producer), Marc Norman (Screenwriter/Producer), Tom Stoppard (Screenwriter), David Parfitt (Producer), Martin Childs (Production Designer), Geoffrey Rush (Actor), Sandy Powell (Costume Designer), Richard Greatrex (Cinematographer), Judi Dench (Actor), Gwyneth Paltrow (Actor), John Madden (Director), Ben Affleck (Actor), Colin Firth (Actor), and Joseph Fiennes (Actor)

    This is presented in Dolby Digital 1.0, and consists of edited together snippets of interviews with the various cast & crew members mentioned above. It bears little to no relation to what is happening on the screen, and is of limited value.

Featurette - Shakespeare In Love And On Film (20:51)

    This is an extended promotional featurette for the film with some reference to previous film versions of Romeo & Juliet. It is of moderate interest.

Featurette - Academy Award-Winning Costume (2:25)

    This is a brief interview with the Costume Designer.

Deleted Scenes - 4

    This consists of a total of 4 quite lengthy sequences. The first sequence is an Alternate Ending to the film. The next two sequences are more lengthy edits to sequences which remain in the movie in a shorter form. The final sequence is an amusing outtake. There is no commentary underscoring these sequences, though they are discussed during the Director's Commentary track.

    The video quality of the first three sequences is excellent, far superior to that which we have seen in the past for unseen footage. I suspect that this means these scenes were excised quite late into the post-production process. The video quality of the fourth segment is quite acceptable but not great.

TV Spots - 21

    That's not a typo. There really are 21 TV spots on this disc, most 30 seconds long, some 15 seconds long. It is interesting to watch the evolution of the TV spots as both the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards were awarded to this film.

Theatrical Trailer

    I will be making a change to my entries under this extra from now on. Instead of specifically discussing the Theatrical Trailer, I will simply list its technical specifications in the summary box at the top of the review, and only make specific comments about the trailer if there is something remarkable about it, or if there is a glitch in the trailer.

Production Notes / Cast & Crew Biographies

    It seems most odd, but these are not present at all on this disc.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this DVD misses out on;     There is no compelling reason to prefer one version of this DVD over the other, though it does bear mentioning that the US RRP of the Region 1 version of this DVD is $39.95 US whereas the RRP of the Region 4 version is $34.95 Australian.


    Shakespeare In Love is a remarkable film on a remarkable DVD. I consider this disc the very best disc that I have ever seen in Region 4, and it surpasses the quality of The Fifth Element. This disc has taken top honours in my Hall of Fame.

    The video quality is reference quality.

    The audio quality is reference quality.

    The extras are superb.

    What more can I say? This disc deserves a place in your DVD collection.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna
3rd September 1999
Amended 6th January 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer