Gary Couzens has reviewed the Region 0 release of The Interview, an award-winning drama from Australia, with a brilliant performance from Hugo Weaving as a man interrogated by the police for a crime he may or may not have committed. Siren’s DVD release has rather basic picture and sound but makes up for it with some good extras.
Melbourne, the present. At five o’clock one morning, several policemen, led by Detective Sergeant John Steele (Tony Martin) break down the door of an apartment and arrest the occupant, Eddie Fleming (Hugo Weaving). Steele and Detective Senior Constable Wayne Prior (Aaron Jeffery) interrogate Fleming about a stolen car, with transfer documents apparently forged in Fleming’s handwriting and the owner, a Mr Beecroft, missing. At first Fleming protests his innocence, but soon he’s confessing to a crime much larger than the theft of a car: multiple murder. But is he telling the truth?
Craig Monahan’s debut feature is a claustrophobic drama that holds your attention from the outset. About half the running time is set in the darkly-lit interrogation room, and it’s a tribute to Monahan’s inventive direction that the film doesn’t become visually monotonous. This is very much an actors’ piece, however. Hugo Weaving is extraordinary as Fleming, ably managing at least three major shifts in character. Anyone who has only seen him in The Matrix or The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert won’t know how fine an actor he is. The Interview won him his second Australian Film Institute award for Best Actor (after Proof). But Tony Martin gives just as strong a performance. Aaron Jeffery is effective in a smaller role as bad cop to Steele’s good cop.
The film itself also won AFI Awards for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. The script (by Monahan and Gordon Davie, an ex-cop who served as the film’s technical advisor) is an intricate piece of work, constantly (and often subtly) giving the audience more and more information and deftly switching our sympathies from Fleming to Steele and back again and leaving us to draw our own conclusions at the end.
The Interview was filmed in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This DVD transfer is in the correct ratio but regrettably isn’t anamorphic. The scenes in the interrogation room are intentionally darkly lit, with strong shadows and backgrounds barely emerging from the darkness. There are however quite a few instances of artefacting: shimmering radiator grilles, microphones, leads and so on. The sound is basic two-channel stereo, left and right only. Apart from some directional sound in the opening scene, it might as well be mono anyway, as this is very much a dialogue-led film. Unfortunately for the hard-of-hearing and viewers likely to struggle with occasionally strong Aussie accents, there are no subtitles. There are twenty-three chapter stops. The layer change is awkwardly placed, in the middle of a music cue.
If the picture and sound aren’t anything to show off your system with, this DVD makes up for it with the number of extras. First of all is director Monahan’s commentary. This is very much scene-specific, and at first sounds like he’s describing what we can see on screen. However, this is a film that relies on small, seemingly insignificant details, and the commentary helps you pick up on nuances that you undoubtedly missed first time round. The trailer is full-frame and runs 1:21; it shows scenes from the film but with music instead of dialogue. It’s effective but it makes the film more like a thriller than it actually is. The pre-production footage is in two parts, which can be watched together or separately, first about the production design (3:53) and secondly storyboarding (4:32). Both are shot on full-frame video. There are three deleted scenes, one of which is an alternate ending, an extension of the present one. The new footage is on timecoded video, and all three deleted scenes can be watched with a soundtrack or with commentary by Monahan. All are interesting, though it’s easy to see why they were removed.
The rest of the extras are organised in a separate menu and comprise the film’s press kit. There are basic biographies of Weaving, Martin, Jeffery and Monahan. Twenty-four minutes of interviews follow, with the above four plus Gordon Davie; these can be viewed singly or all in one go. The remainder of the press kit consists of text: lists of awards won, festivals played, an advert for the soundtrack CD and extracts from reviews in Australian and North American media. The Interview played the 1998 London Film Festival, which is where I first saw it, but has not had a UK release in any medium.
The packaging and disc itself state that this DVD is Region 4, but this is incorrect: it’s Region 0. There is a US DVD release from New Yorker Films, which I haven’t seen. Details of this release are sparse, so I’ll simply mention its existence. The Interview is the second Siren DVD I’ve seen (the first was Praise) and it’s evident that their DVDs are improving, which is good news for anyone interested in current Australian cinema. The lack of an anamorphic transfer is the major drawback, but I’d recommend this disc anyway, for the quality of the film and the extras.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
Continue the conversation over on The Digital Fix Forum