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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • French: Dolby Digital Stereo
  • 6 Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Interviews
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Under the Sand

Madman Entertainment/AV Channel . R4 . COLOR . 92 mins . M15+ . PAL


Have you ever wondered what it would be like to find your other half has disappeared without explanation, without reason, and without a trace? This is exactly the scenario that Marie Drillon (Charlotte Rampling) finds herself in after dozing off on the sand while her husband Jean (Bruno Cremer) trundles down to the water for a swim at the beach that adjoins their holiday home.

After a frantic search, she enlists the help of local lifeguards but no trace of Jean is found. Accepting that he may be gone for now, but in denial over his likely death, she returns to their city home in an attempt to get back to something of a normal life. Her denial runs so deep that she continues to live with the memory of her husband in a way that would freak many of us, and no, she is not living with a stuffed corpse on the sofa. She simply imagines that nothing has changed, and continues to refer to Jean in the first person, and in the present tense. Naturally, her friends are concerned, but she refuses to hear them.

Things become a little more complicated with the arrival of Vincent, who takes a shine to Marie, and despite herself, she finds comfort with him. Still unable to reconcile her husband's likely death, she uncovers what she believes to be evidence that Jean may have suicided, but his mother is adamant that Jean did not take such a way out. Her world becomes even more confusing when the authorities find what they believe to be Jean's body.

Faced with several possibilities, but unable to accept any of them, Marie seems determined to live in her fantasy world. However, as we all know, fantasy worlds are just the false realities we create to make pain a little more bearable.

Typical of French character dramas, Under the Sand steadily makes its way to a less than climactic end. Characters grow and bend, storylines amble to a sometimes less than satisfactory end, and just enough threads are left open to keep you wondering after the credits roll. Under the Sand does not provide a neatly packaged end, but neither does it leave you frustrated. Like life, there is no real ending.

The acting is excellent, especially from Rampling, and this film is the perfect vehicle for her considerable talent. Her ability to appear in control, yet slowly fall apart at the same time, is unsettling for the audience. There are some wonderful camera angles, sharp and snappy editing, and a number of challenging scenes. Oh, being a French film, there is of course, nudity and sex.

This is not quite a ‘chick flick’, and anyone who has experienced loss and loneliness will be able to relate to Marie and her pain and confusion. Those that like films with tension, and some genuine conflict and resolution, will probably need to look elsewhere.


Under the Sand is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. Colours are extremely natural, skin tones are accurate, and black levels are excellent with lots of depth and no evidence of low-level noise. There are no problems with colour bleeding or chroma noise.

There are no marks or specks in this transfer, and it's another ten out of ten for cleanliness. There are no video to film artefacts such as aliasing, and shadow detail is also very good.

There is not even a layer change to disrupt proceedings on this single-layer disc.


There is but one audio option and that is French Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo with a smattering of English included, but the burned in English subtitles are easy to read. This has been mastered at high levels and at times sound effects come through a little harshly, but this is a minor quibble. All dialogue is clear, though mostly in French.

There is little noticeable panning or separation between the left and right front speakers, and not a peep from any of the other speakers or subwoofer. Low-level sounds are fine, though they are few in number and not required in a film that is mostly dialogue-driven. Even the minimal and infrequent music does not really offer any rumblings.


There are several extras included, but they are unlikely to spark overt enthusiasm. The most interesting is the 7:44 minute Interview with Charlotte Rampling that is in French with English subtitles. It also includes some comments from Bruno Cremer, and is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 but is not 16x9 enhanced.

The accompanying Trailer is dark and grainy in comparison to the feature and at just over a minute is adequate in promoting the film. It is also 1.78:1, but isn't 16x9 enhanced.

Charlotte Rampling Filmography is three pages of text listing the films of the lead actress, and is very similar to Francois Ozon Filmography that clocks in at an underwhelming one page.

There is the usual Madman Propaganda for any trailer junkies out there, who score six previews for the DVD releases of The Circle, Kandahar, Dinner Rush, Molokai, Monsoon Wedding, and Satin Rouge (no relation to Moulin Rouge).


Under the Sand is another continental film that will probably struggle to find an audience in Australia, and more so on DVD. Starring a cast of almost unknowns, and from an unknown and relatively new director in Francois Ozon, it also suffers from the curse of being in a foreign language, and let's face it, Mr and Mrs Six-pack are not really keen on reading their films, are they? The film itself is interesting enough, but is not the thriller that at first glance it may appear to be. The DVD cover boasts some impressive quotes from respected journalists, but I feel they only serve to over-inflate expectations and that is not usually a good thing. Still, the excellent performance from Rampling is more than enough reason to give this a spin.

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      And I quote...
    "A typical French drama, with mystery, surprise, soul-searching – and, of course, nudity!"
    - Terry Kemp
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
    • TV:
          TEAC CT-F803 80cm Super Flat Screen
    • Receiver:
          Pioneer VSX-D409
    • Speakers:
    • Centre Speaker:
    • Surrounds:
    • Subwoofer:
          Sherwood SP 210W
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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