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  Directed by
    None Listed
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 2.35:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • German: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Italian: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Czech, Greek, Polish, Hungarian, Dutch, Arabic, Portuguese, Turkish, Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Hindi, Bulgarian, Commentary - German, Commentary - Italian, Commentary - French, Commentary - Dutch
  Extras
  • 6 Deleted scenes - 4:3
  • Theatrical trailer - 4:3
  • Audio commentary - Producer Ismail Merchant, director James Ivory and Emma Thompson
  • Featurette - Blind Loyalty, Hollow Honor: England's Fatal Flaw
  • 2 Documentaries - A Filmmaker's Journey, HBO Making Of
  • 6 Filmographies - Cast and Crew

The Remains of the Day

Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 129 mins . G . PAL

  Feature
Contract

It must be a hard thing to get to the end of your life and look back and see that you did bugger all. I always liken it to lying on my death bed regretting all the time I wasted not doing cool stuff I wanted to do and wishing I had that time again. So, I just use that time now, like I got given it again from that future I might wish for it, then I won’t have to regret a thing. Or something.

Anyhow, this isn’t quite like that, yet it is. (Sir) Anthony Hopkins plays Mr Stephens, head butler to Mr Darlington of Darlington Hall. His world is very structured, very neat and orderly and his devotion to his master is truly remarkable. However, when Miss Kenton turns up as the housekeeper, he suddenly finds himself enamoured with her yet unable to recognise his feelings or even deal with them in an approved manner. Lingering forever on the fringes of life, serving out someone else’s commands and comforts, he is but a spectator of life, watching it from a safe distance and never becoming involved himself.

"Well, she’s old! She must be at least 30!"

Miss Kenton, recognising her feelings toward Mr Stephens and respecting his manner, is frustrated by his inability to formulate his affections and in desperation commits to marry another against both her wishes and Mr Stephens lasting disappointment. Told in flashback, we learn they have remained in touch and he is travelling to her, years after the events in which they found themselves working together, to perhaps finally ignite some still smouldering ember.

This is a bittersweet tale of the empty honour of serving another; ‘one’s better’ as Stephens himself puts it. Perfectly acted by the subtle inflections of Hopkins and the sassy strength of Emma Thompson, the two create an amusing, frustrating and at times annoying relationship in which they both brilliantly express the pent-up emotions of their characters. Hopkins is almost a wide-eyed innocent throughout the film, oblivious to even what he is feeling and certainly unable to understand what anyone else may feel for him. The story of these two behind-the-scenes protagonists takes place against a backdrop of the pre-war 1930s and discussions between Nazi Germany and other European leaders trying to prevent another war and this is cleverly delivered alongside the currents of the servants’ lives.

Produced by the unstoppable team of Merchant-Ivory, The Remains of the Day runs perhaps a little long at 2:09, but for those folks who like their romance stories long and slow, this is your film. Great performances bring it to life, though upon the conclusion, one might find oneself wishing there were a little more substance and a little more closure than that which we are granted.

  Video
Contract

Brought to the DVD machine in glorious 2.35:1 with 16:9 anamorphic enhancement, Remains looks as huge as it would have in cinemas back in 1993. The vast and empty guilt rooms of Darlington Hall are all portrayed in their full cavernous air by the massive wide screen here. While there are a couple of artefacts strewn about here and there, there isn’t anything really outstanding in that regard. The colour and contrast, however, are a different story. Some colours are very flat at times with no apparent depth in some scenes and this is unfortunate for such a well-shot film (a good example is in His Lordship’s chambers at 1:06:00 onward).

Most colours are a broad series of understated tones, however they look fine throughout and add their realism to the interior sets which have all been shot on location without any use of studio shots. In that regard, the lighting varies throughout but everything mostly looks okay if a little washed out occasionally. Lastly, and kinda related to contrast, the shadows soak up the details a little throughout, but at least the blacks look natural and true.

  Audio
Contract

With very little to do, we are still granted the standard of excellence in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. This is, of course, entirely adequate to convey this mostly dialogue-driven film, but does seem a bit of a waste. Dialogue is all well spoken in plenty of English accents, with a couple of various European or American ones thrown in for fun.

The sound effects are all fine and familiar in their gravel-drive or baying-foxhounds Englishness, but all work well. Music too, created by Richard Robbins, is effectively understated throughout, though it doesn’t seem to augment mood in any way which would have been helpful throughout. Particularly useful, actually, as thinking back upon this film it seems quite devoid of sentiment, perhaps going for the same feeling Mr Stephens himself seems to carry?

  Extras
Contract

There's quite a swag here for fans of the film and they do add quite a good deal of value to the overall DVD. Firstly, I might just add that the volume on the menus is a couple of notches higher than anywhere else, so take that into consideration.

Our first inclusion is the audio commentary with director James Ivory, producer Ismail Merchant and actor Emma Thompson. This gives some interesting facts and figures with the whole thing very chummy between these three obviously good friends. This is certainly friendlier and less starchy than I was expecting and is even quite comedic in parts. Very entertaining for an audio commentary.

An ‘exclusive’ documentary entitled The Filmmaker’s Journey follows and this runs for a whopping 29:53. Delivered in 4:3, this is a nice making of and has some great cast and crew interviews and behind the scenes stuff. Following this is an ‘exclusive’ featurette (the disc calls them exclusive, not me) that runs for 14:52. Named the classic Blind Loyalty, Hollow Honor: England’s Fatal Flaw, this again features interviews with the novellist Kazuo Ishiguro, (Sir) Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson amid others. It also features some repeats from the previous ‘exclusive’ and plenty of film footage in unenhanced 2.35:1.

The HBO Making Of is yet another documentary on production and runs for 28:38 so by now you will be watching well into the (haha) remains of the day...
Unfortunately, this again features repeats and scads of film footage, but does contain fresh interviews with Hopkins and Ivory.

Six deleted scenes are next and these are presented only in 4:3, sadly. They feature an optional director’s commentary and are littered with artefacts, but are well worth the look with Christopher Reeve shooting Anthony Hopkins (with a camera) being the highlight for me.

Finally, six filmographies of Hopkins, Thompson, Reeves and Hugh Grant plus Ivory and Merchant themselves and the theatrical trailer. This is a shonky 4:3 with occasional artefacts and runs for 2:18.

There’s plenty of stuff to keep us busy here, even if a bit gets repeated here and there. Still, not a bad batch considering the treatment some films akin to this one get in the transfer to DVD; lucky to get a trailer.

  Overall  
Contract

For fans of the Merchant Ivory production company, this will no doubt be a must-have as this film is one of the flagships by which they are known. Following on from the success of 1992s Howard’s End, Remains of the Day is a bittersweet, though inevitably vapid, story of misplaced devotion. Regret, remorse, and the inexorable passage of Time fill the story at every turn, however I still managed to find it watchable, if only to see how it played out in the end. While the complement of actors is magnificent, there really doesn’t seem to be to much for them to get their hooks into here and in part have gone to waste.

However, this is a nice Sunday afternoon film for those who like this sort of thing with the extras helping sweeten the deal.


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      And I quote...
    "A flagship from Merchant Ivory that could have been treated a little better in its transfer to DVD. Still, a classic of the English aristocracy and the folks who slave for them."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Nintaus DVD-N9901
    • TV:
          Sony 51cm
    • Receiver:
          Diamond
    • Speakers:
          Diamond
    • Surrounds:
          No Name
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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