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The Woman with the Five Elephants
SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • German Dolby Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Bonus Short: Portrait (2002, 28 minutes), an award-winning short film from Russian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa

The Woman with the Five Elephants


Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Vadim Jendreyko
2010 | 93 Minutes

Release Information
DVD | MSRP: $29.95 | Series: Cinema Guild
Cinema Guild

Release Date: February 21, 2012
Review Date: March 10, 2012

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SYNOPSIS

A revelatory investigation into language, meaning and the tides of history, The Woman with the Five Elephants unravels the mystery behind the life and work of Svetlana Geier, the world's greatest translator of Russian literature. Geier's renown stems from her groundbreaking translations of Dostoevsky's five great novels - referred to as the five elephants. But her great success has come with its share of loss. Born in Ukraine in 1923, she witnessed first-hand the impact of Stalin's purges. As a young girl, she watched Nazi forces occupy her country and execute 30,000 Jews. It was her unique gift for languages that ultimately saved her. But it forced her to make a choice that forever altered her life.


PICTURE

Cinema Guild presents Vadim Jendreykoís documentary The Woman with the Five Elephants on DVD in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on a dual-layer disc. The image has been enhanced for widescreen televisions.

Shot on standard-definition digital I was actually surprised how good this film does look. It remains sharp and manages to present some distinct details rather clearly, renders colours rather nicely, and actually has a very minimal amount of artifacts present other than some jaggies on the edges of objects. Overall, despite the limitations of the equipment of the film used, it looks amazingly splendid.

8/10

All DVD screen captures are presented in their original size from the source disc. Images have been compressed slightly to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The German Dolby Digital 2.0 track here also offers a pleasant surprise. Voices are clear and the movieís score fills out the sound field in a rather haunting manner. Thereís some great depth and range to it despite its documentary roots. Another pleasant surprise about this release.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

A disappointingly sparse edition, Cinema Guild includes a couple of supplements starting with 24-minutes worth of deleted scenes, which actually present Geier at work, talking with a class, and talking about Dostoyevsky. I actually found these aspects of the film the most interesting parts so itís a shame that more of this material didnít make it. Of course there is really so much to the film and her life that some things obviously had to get trimmed, but at least theyíre included here.

The disc then comes with the filmís theatrical trailer and then a number of other trailers for other films released by Cinema Guild.

Most interesting, though, is the inclusion of the 28-minute short film Portrait, directed by Sergei Loznitsa in 2002. The piece, made up entirely of black and white static shots of various peasant farmers in their traditional clothing across the disappearing Russian countryside, is very unconventional, filled with long static shots but itís a fascinating document of farming life. Itís an interesting inclusion for this release since I canít see much of a relation between this film and the feature film on the disc. Still, a nice inclusion by Cinema Guild.

And unfortunately thatís it. Short of possibly an interview with the director or more deleted material from the film I admittedly canít think of much else to add, but in comparison to some of the companyís other releases (The Strange Case of Anjelica, Putty Hill, and Everyday Sunshine to name a few) it does feel a little sparse.

5/10

CLOSING

Donít let the synopsis fool you; this is an incredibly captivating film and Svetlana Geier makes for an unlikely yet intriguing subject. Though Iím sure some will question some of the choices sheís made during her life sheís lived a full life, experienced some awful things while having to endure both Stalinís rule and then the Nazis after moving to Germany, and yet she came out of it thanks to language. But where the film becomes even more fascinating is when she talks about the nature of language and when sheís working on her translations (the titleís five elephants refer to her large undertaking of translating five of Dostoyevskyís works from Russian to German.) I was actually a bit upset the film didnít contain even more of this material since a good chunk of it focuses on her younger life, but still itís a nicely constructed document of the woman. And despite the slim nature of the supplements, Cinema Guild deliver a strong DVD presentation for the film, and it does come with a high recommendation.




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