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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.85:1 Widescreen
  • English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • Audio commentary featuring Andrew Haigh and producer Tristan Goligher
  • New documentary featuring interviews with Andrew Haigh, Tristan Goligher, actors Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay, editor Jonathan Alberts, and director of photography Lol Crawley
  • New interview with David Constantine, author of the short story on which the film is based
  • Trailer
  • An essay by critic Ella Taylor

45 Years

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Andrew Haigh
2015 | 95 Minutes | Licensor: Sundance Selects

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $39.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #861
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: March 7, 2017
Review Date: March 7, 2017

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SYNOPSIS

In this exquisitely calibrated film, Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay perform a subtly off-kilter pas de deux as Kate and Geoff, an English couple who, on the eve of an anniversary celebration, find their long marriage shaken by the arrival of a letter to Geoff that unceremoniously collapses his past into their shared present. Director Andrew Haigh carries the tradition of British realist cinema to artful new heights in 45 Years, weaving the momentous into the mundane as the pair go about their daily lives, while the evocatively flat, wintry Norfolk landscape frames their struggle to maintain an increasingly untenable status quo. Loosely adapting a short story by David Constantine, Haigh shifts the focus from the slightly erratic Geoff to Kate, eliciting a remarkable, nuanced portrayal by Rampling of a womanís gradual metamorphosis from unflappable wife to woman undone.


PICTURE

After getting a barebones Blu-ray edition from Paramount last summer, Andrew Haighís 45 Years gets a new special edition from the Criterion Collection, who present the film in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on a dual-layer disc. The new 1080p/24hz high-definition presentation comes from a 2K scan of the original 35mm negative. I havenít seen the Paramount Blu-ray so I canít compare the two.

I was surprised to see that Haigh decided to shoot on film in place of using digital. Haigh and D.P. Lol Crawley go over this decision in the included making-of, and it sounds like one of the reasonsóoutside of just wanting a more photographic lookóis that film is better for low-lit sequences, which there are a lot of in this film. These sequences do look very strong, with strong blacks and decent shadow detail. This latter aspect isnít always great (there are a few areas where objects can look like a flat, black or grayish mass) but a handful of shots are especially impressive, like one where the lights are completely shut off yet you can still make out certain shapes and a glint in one of the main characterís eyes.

Those dark scenes look great, better than they would have if digital was used (see Haighís own Weekend for examples) but the presentation shines most during the brighter scenes. This isnít a very bright film, mind you, laced with dreary grays and blues admittedly, but everything is still rendered wonderfully. There are a number of shots of the landscape around the main charactersí (played by Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay) home, and these shots look absolutely terrific. Even in long shots there is an incredible amount of detail in the fields, the trees, the roads, and some of dilapidated buildings and items in the backgrounds. Fog is present at times, and it doesnít present any banding issues, looking natural. Film grain is there but very faint most of the time and its rendered well, never looking like noise, even in the darker scenes.

Again, the colour scheme is a bit dreary, but the colours are rendered beautifully with strong saturation levels and no signs of bleeding. There are no print flaws of note but considering how new the film is (not even a couple of years) I wasnít expecting any. Overall itís a nice looking film and Criterionís presentation keeps it very clean and filmic.

9/10

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AUDIO

The 5.1 DTS-HD MA surround track was a real surprise here. Itís a contemplative character study, nothing one would expect to be showy, but there is a decent amount of activity here. Dialogue is focused to the fronts, which is not at all surprising, and it sounds crystal clear and sharp. What I did find surprising was the surround activity we get here. Songs from the main charactersí youth appear from time to time and fill out nicely, but itís the ambient sound effects that actually blew me away. A couple of city street scenes work to plant the viewer in the middle of it, with noticeable activity working around. Yet itís the weather that really makes use of the sound system, with the wind blowing around the viewer (complete with wind chimes) for example, with incredible direction, fidelity, and range. It sounds so natural and life like youíll swear there is a strong wind blowing around you. Itís quite good and the mix is very impressive for what is otherwise a very quiet film.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Paramountís Blu-ray was barebones, not even a trailer, and was obviously just a stop-gap release until Criterion could get their edition ready (like Boyhood and Clouds of Sils Maria, though the former at least had some features). Disappointingly what we get is not a very packed edition but the material is at least good.

Thereís a rather enjoyable audio commentary from 2015 featuring director Andrew Haigh and producer Tristan Goligher, which I believe was recorded for the region B Artificial Eye (I havenít seen that release, either, so Iím guessing there based on specifications). Itís a technical track but itís a fairly entertaining one. Most of the track features the two explaining the various decisions that went into scene set-ups, blocking (with Haigh talking a bit about Sidney Lumet and his blocking), editing decisions, or even character traits, while also offer their admiration for what Rampling and Courtenay brought to the film. This may not sound terribly exciting but the two, with some levity, manage to keep the discussion engaging and interesting, aided by some humourous stories from the shoot and a loose style.

Expanding from the commentary is a new making-of documentary put together by Criterion, getting new interviews with Haigh and Goligher, along with editor Jonathan Alberts, director of photography Lol Crawley, and actors Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay. It never becomes anything more than a typical talking-heads piece (with some behind-the-scenes footage thrown in) but itís engaging. Itís at least made all the better by Ramplingís and Courtenayís participation, where the two talk about how they were attracted to the project (Courtenay explains he initially received the script on his iPhone and ended up reading the whole thing on the smaller screen) and talk about developing their characters. Thereís also more discussion about the filmís editing, its look (in particular the use of film as opposed to digital), and how the film plays as a sort of ghost story, the past being the ghost in this case. Again there isnít anything truly extraordinary here, but I still enjoyed it and found it a very breezy 37-minutes.

Interestingly Criterion then manages to get an interview with David Constantine, the author of the short story on which the film is based. Constantine expresses some surprise that this story, In Another Country, would be adapted since it was only 12-pages, but heís impressed with the film that has come from it. He does talk in-depth about his story, from inspiration right down to the experimental prose he used (text of passages from the story are displayed every so often), and talks about how the film adapts his text and ideas to a visual medium. I donít think Constantine had anything to do with the adaptation (the credits and these features all suggest Haigh is 100% responsible for the script) but Constantine gives some insights into the adaptation process. It runs 13-minutes.

The disc then closes with the American theatrical trailer while the included insert includes a decent short essay on the film by Ella Taylor.

The inclusion of the interview with the author is something out of the scope of what the major studios would normally do with their own special editions, but otherwise the special features (which are made up primarily of a making-of and a commentary) feel fairly standard. Still, I found them enjoyable and worth the effort of going through.

7/10

CLOSING

Not a spectacular special edition by any means but the features are still all good and the presentation is wonderful. If you are fond of the film itís certainly worth picking up.


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