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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  Languages
  • German: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  Subtitles
    English, German, Italian, English - Hearing Impaired
  Extras
  • Theatrical trailer

Behind the Sun (Rental)

Miramax/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 88 mins . M . PAL

  Feature
Contract

When it comes to art house films, there is a fine line between art house and shit house. Sadly, this film falls a tad over the shit house side. Maybe it is just me, or maybe it really is the film, but just remember this is only one person’s opinion. This film is just lacking that something that makes it enthralling for the audience. It is hard to exactly pinpoint, but something is missing. Yet, this film still should be watched for a more ‘visual’ reason.

This reason is evidently clear from the very first frame. The cinematography. It is simply gorgeous and holds plenty of eye candy to keep you amused throughout the short (yet slowly paced) 88 minute duration. Innovative mounted camera angles such as the base of a swing or top of a rope give the audience a super smooth and slick look at the central characters. This then exudes a surreal beauty that is washed with a stunning clarity. The director of photography, Walter Carvalho, has captured some of the richest scenery in the lovely CinemaScope format with a purposeful and artistic touch to each and every camera angle.

But then, when you try to ignore this picturesque yet harsh visual beauty (if it can be done), you are left with a story (if it can be called that) that just really leaves you asking: “huh”? The dialogue at times tend to sound over-simplistic, but that could be put down to the fact that what we read is a translation of Portuguese. Tonio is the oldest remaining son of a hard-working family in the Brazilian badlands in 1910. Being the oldest, it is his responsibility to continue the family feud (no, not the old Channel 9 TV show) regarding who owns the land. The feud is fuelled by one family killing a member of the other family and so on and so forth. This is a place where time and truces are set by the colour of the blood, and the yellowing of it. Tonio is now between a rock and a hard place. He is scared about fighting for his life in this generation-old feud, and also tempted to flee by his younger brother’s childish view on life outside of their remote village. So what follows is a mish mash of personal dilemmas, starting with Pacu (the younger brother) telling his story at the beginning, then Tonio picking it up and running with it, and then ending with Pacu’s story. Again, the word that comes to mind is “huh?” Something as beautiful as this cannot hide the false quality and muddled timeline of this film.

  Video
Contract

Presented in an anamorphically enhanced aspect of 2.35:1, Behind the Sun boldly shines on DVD with a near faultless video transfer.

The first thing that hits you from this transfer is the stunning cinematography, and the second thing are the colours. The rendered colours are rich and vibrant and convey the harsh reality of the Brazilian badlands. Blues are stunning and mysterious as they light up the screen with the brilliant clear sky. Yellow and orange tones display the dry life in this barren land, yet give a beautiful and pure image. For the remainder of the transfer, posterisation is not a problem at all. Blacks are solid and deep, and show no signs of low level noise. Yet during the darker scenes, grain is a larger problem, reducing the clarity (which is otherwise stunning) of the image. It isn’t as bad as it could be, but still not great either. This would have to be the biggest fault of the transfer. Film artefacts do not attribute to any problems, nor do block MPEG artefacts. Even during the opening chase scene featuring Tonio, not a single MPEG artefact can be seen. A tad of aliasing can be seen, but nothing too freaky. Subtitles are clear and easy to read, and are available in English, English for the Hearing Impaired, Italian and German.

  Audio
Contract

Three audio tracks are on the disc, all Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks with language options of Portuguese, Italian and German. The packaging states an English track, but there isn't one on this disc.

Portuguese is the best listening option as this is the original language for the film. Synch is spot on, and dialogue is crisp and clear throughout. All three audio tracks share a similar problem, and that is that they are not the best examples of 5.1. Surround activity is very limited, and when it is used, it is too subtle - and this is coming from someone who prefers subtle effects too! The subwoofer is used slightly, but nothing thunderingly loud. However, being dialogue-driven, the lack of surrounds and subwoofer means there is less to distract the audience from the beautiful cinematography... oh and the actual dialogue if they want to listen to that too.

  Extras
Contract

Maybe it is just this disc that is really, really retarded or maybe all the discs are like this. When placed in a DVD player (and also tested in a DVD-ROM drive), a menu loads with only one option – Play Movie. There are no other menus, no language options, nuffin’. So 'Play Movie' was selected, and the movie started to play. When the 'Menu' button is pushed during the movie, you are then taken to the full proper menu with 'Features' and 'Set Up' options. The only way to get back to that simple menu is to remove the disc and try again. But anyway, the menus are 16x9 enhanced, and the first menu looks very, very white, while the proper menu sets the mood for the film and features part of the score as background audio.

The special features are limited to a Theatrical Trailer which tells the story of the film. And we are now at the end of the list of 'Special Features'. Wow... fun right, eh?

  Overall  
Contract

It is possibly just me, but this movie can be summarised in one word, “blah”. Something was just missing from the film, and it tended to wander rather than make any point. The cinematography must be seen to be believed, and the near-reference quality video transfer deserves a look too. The audio is adequate, but nothing thrilling, and the 'Special Features' are not terribly special at all – except for the spooky menu trick. It’s just a pity you actually have to watch the film to see the video transfer...


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      And I quote...
    "...there is a fine line between art house and shit house..."
    - Martin Friedel
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Philips DVD 736K
    • DVD Rom:
          Compaq SD 616ST
    • TV:
          TEAC EU68-ST
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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