The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Paramount Vantage - 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 109 Minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.40:1
Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, French/Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Starring: Keira Knightly, Ralph Fiennes, Charlotte Rampling, Dominic Cooper, Hayley Atwell
Directed by: Saul Dibb
Music by: Rachel Portman
Written by: Jeffrey Hatcher, Anders Thomas Jensen and Saul Dibb
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: December 28, 2008
"There were three people in her marriage"
Academy Award nominees Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes star in The Duchess: the compelling true story of a lavish world filled with smoldering passion, heartbreaking deception and stifling demands. Beloved by a nation but betrayed by her husband, Georgiana Spencer - the Duchess of Devonshire and "Empress of Fashion" - faced an agonizing choice between responsibility and love. This gripping portrayal of England's "It Girl" has won acclaim from audiences and critics alike. She was vivacious. She was heroic. She was The Duchess.
Keira Knightly is one very busy actress. She seems to find her way into quite a few films that take place in or near this time period. That isn’t a complaint but it makes it hard to remember which films are which. I have not seen them all but I have seen several of them and I find her to be a fine young actress that always seems to put her best foot forward. I couldn’t help but feel that this was going to be a rather bland/boring film but in reality I found it to very interesting. It’s incredible how women were used by their families back then to obtain positions of status by marrying prominent men. In this case young Georgiana’s marriage to the Duke of Devonshire was arranged by her mother. She came from a well to do family and the arrangement was struck after the Duke expressed the need not only for a wife but one who could provide him with a son and heir. Her mother assured him that the women in her family were known for producing sons. She was less than eighteen years old when she married him and he appeared significantly older than she was. Georgiana was thrown into the life of an aristocrat which she quickly adapted to. She quickly became revered and known for her gambling prowess and clothing, most of which she designed herself. Problems arose quickly though. The first of which was her husband’s lack of fidelity. The second was her inability to immediately provide him with a son. Their first two children were both girls which displeased him greatly. On top of that Georgiana was tasked by William (The Duke) with raising a third girl who was the product of one of his affairs. Things got completely out of hand after Georgiana’s best friend comes to stay with them and William coerces her (initially) into an affair with him. This begins a union that will last for years and results in her continuing to reside with them in a rather bizarre arrangement. After Georgiana bears William a son she reconnects with a young politician that she once had a crush on before marrying William. She begins her own affair but it is short lived after William finds out about it and threatens to take her children from her. She is forced to remain in an interminable situation that was probably even worse than those faced by other women of the time period.
Based upon the book by Amanda Foreman about the true story of Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire I thought this was good film. The subject matter on the surface might seem a little dry but once I started watching I found it hard to stop. I thought that Keira Knightly did a superb job in the title role and Ralph Fiennes captured the essence of the emotionless, terse, egotistical, and selfish Duke of Devonshire. The supporting roles carried by Charlotte Rampling, Hayley Atwell and Dominic Cooper were all solid as well. The cinematography, locations and costumes were all impressive. At 109 minutes I thought that it paced quite well and didn’t feel too long.
The rating is for sexual content, brief nudity, and thematic material.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
The Duchess ceoms to Blu-ray Disc from Paramount featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 36 mbps and lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 channel audio that has an average bitrate of 3.4 mbps.
This video presentation featured an extensive and visually pleasing color palette that offered lush, vibrant exterior textures and detailed panoramic vista views of the landscapes and palatial structures that were impressive. The diverse colors and intricate patterns used in the period clothing worn by the cast looked excellent in high definition. There are several sequences shot within the dark and shadowy confines of the period dwellings. I never had any trouble making out shapes and structure in backgrounds in the uneven light within these areas. Blacks were well extended, dynamic, and noise free which made them pop when sharing screen time with lighter elements. Whites were crisp, bright and contained plenty of visible detail. Resolution was excellent overall but occasionally sharpness wavered which made some scenes appear less refined. I also noticed posterization during a few transitional camera shots. Quite a few of the interior sequences used filtering to achieve the desired look. It gave them a cooler visual aesthetic with higher brightness that washed them out just slightly. This of course is just an observation and not associated directly with the quality of the encoding.
The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack seemed perfectly suited to the source material. Dialogue was rendered clearly with good intonation and average room penetration. The bulk of the presentation was handled by the front three channels. Imaging and directional spacing was excellent as soundstage pans were tightly focused and seamless. The music score was reproduced by the entire sound platform with the front channels containing the orchestrated instrumentation and the rear channels providing ambient extension. The front sound field was narrower than I would have liked but the blend was integrated well. The instruments sounded crystal clear with good dynamic range and appreciable tonal distinction. Surround sound activity was limited to subtle venue creation via atmospheric ambience and occasional discrete pans. I thought that depth was good but less dimensional than I would have liked. That is a minor nitpick though as the overall presentation was just fine.
- (HD How far she went: The making of the Duchess - 6 part feature totaling 20 minutes
- (HD Georgiana in her own words - 7 minute documentary that examines her letters
- (HD Costume diary - 5 minute featurette
- (HD) Theatrical trailer 1 and 2
I found The Duchess to be an interesting, well acted and beautifully shot film. For me its factual basis elevates the level of interest but I can’t speak for everyone. Its debut on high definition Blu-ray Disc from Paramount features solid audio and excellent quality video. The bonus supplements are the same as those on the standard definition DVD and offer brief background on the production and title subject. I would recommend a rental prior to purchase.
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