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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Featurette - Presentation by David Hyde Pierce
Buena Vista/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 89 mins . MA15+ . PAL


Iris is one of those movies where the actual film is not really that great, but most of the performances in it are very good. Iris Murdoch was one of the finest female authors of the 20th century, and the director, Richard Eyre, attempts to present a biography of her life. The strokes used to paint a picture of this life are quite broad, and the film is quite short considering how eventful her life was.

As you may or may not know, Iris Murdoch died in 1999, and was at her death a sufferer of the debilitating disease of Alzheimer’s. The film has a very distinct structure – half of the film is placed in recent times, and the other half 40 years prior. Murdoch is played by Judi Dench in her later years, and by Kate Winslet when she was in her 20s. Her husband, John Bayley, is also played by an older and a younger actor; Jim Broadbent and Hugh Bonneville respectively.

As a young woman, we see Iris as a carefree girl at Oxford University. It is here that she meets the love of her life, John Bayley. One of the main problems is the fact that there is a lot of material presented about this period of her life and the period when she is suffering from Alzheimer’s, but not much in the middle of that.

Iris was nominated for three separate acting awards at the Oscars in 2002. Kate Winslet and Judi Dench were both nominated for Best Actress, and Jim Broadbent came away with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. This was very well deserved; his performance in this film is truly top notch. But ultimately, as mentioned earlier, the film lacks depth and really only touches the surface of this amazing woman’s life.

Nevertheless, Iris is successful as a love story, and at times it is very touching. It's definitely worth viewing if you enjoy this genre of film, but there is not much here to really attract you if you don’t.


The video transfer is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The picture quality is a little disappointing for such a recent film.

The main problem associated with the transfer seems to be consistent bursts of soft grain throughout the film. To add to this, there are some problems associated with the sharpness levels. They seem varied; at times there is a soft almost hazy look to the picture and you must strain your eyes almost to pick detail. At other times the picture is sharp and detail is easy to pick.

There are a few film artefacts present, which is a little strange considering how recent the source material is. There is also some minor pixelation and aliasing to contend with. The colours are nothing to write home about, with some colours seeming to be slightly smeared. Flesh tones for the most part are good, but in some scenes lose a little accuracy. Shadow detail is fine throughout.

There is one soundtrack available on the disc, and it is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 affair. Iris is very much a dialogue driven film, with very little in the way of action sequences. The surrounds get very little work to do, and really only come to life due to the score. Like the surround speakers, the subwoofer remains dormant for the entire film unless it is being used to support the score.

Speaking of the score, it was created by the legendary James Horner and supports the film wonderfully well. It is very orchestral in its nature, and there is a lot of violin in particular.

There is only one extra included on the disc, and it is a special message concerning Alzheimer’s Disease from actor David Hyde Pierce of Frasier fame. His Grandfather suffered from the disease, and this short presentation is definitely worth viewing. I am sure, as is the case with most DVDs, there will be more extras available when the disc is made available for retail.

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  •   And I quote...
    "A portrait of the life of English novelist Iris Murdoch, Iris contains some of the best performances of the last year."
    - Robert Mack
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Sony DVP-NS300
    • TV:
          Sony 68cm
    • Receiver:
          Sony STR-DE475
    • Speakers:
    • Centre Speaker:
    • Surrounds:
    • Subwoofer:
          Sony Active Superwoofer
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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