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Kultur presents
The Human Voice (1966)

"It's like being dead. You can hear, but you can't make yourself heard."
- The Woman (Ingrid Bergman)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: April 23, 2002

Stars: Ingrid Bergman
Director: Ted Kotcheff

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (suicide attempts)
Run Time: 00h:51m:01s
Release Date: April 16, 2002
UPC: 032031261198
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A A-B+B- D-

DVD Review

Artist and filmmaker Jean Cocteau was also a playwright. Presented here in English translation is his one-woman show, The Human Voice, starring Ingrid Bergman. Presented as part of the Broadway Theatre Archive series, the program was originally filmed in 1966 and presented on television.

This brief play centers on a single character, a middle-aged woman, deep in the throes of depression over a recently-ended, long-term love affair. After a brief wordless introduction that sets the scene for us, the play proceeds as a monologue of Bergman speaking to the former lover and others on the telephone. She works through bravado, hope, pleading, despair and fury in rapid succession, painting a picture of a woman on the brink of desperation.

Bergman turns in a tour de force, highly believable portrait of a woman facing age and loneliness, or more specifically, not facing them, but falling apart at the prospect. She provides believable transitions for the many moods of the piece in the space of less than an hour.

Rather than the static camera often used in such productions, there is a bit more adventurous use of the camera here. Most notable is an overhead view of the apartment where the woman's breakdown is occurring, as if she is in a fishbowl. The use of sound is important as well, with a ticking clock, symbolizing her rapidly approaching lonesome old age, that periodically dominates the audio. It's a shame that the audio couldn't be cleaned up a bit better, because it could have made for a highly effective presentation.

Cocteau's script is moving in its exploration of a woman losing her balance. Despite the bleak theme, there's also some humor here, as the woman attempts to talk to her former lover but lines keeps getting crossed and she ends up talking to people looking for a doctor. While there's also a symbolic component here regarding the difficulties in communication generally, it helps keep the piece from being utterly bleak and depressing.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The full-frame picture is in color. Rather soft, it appears to have been shot on video. There are occasional dropouts visible, as well as rolling bars of slightly stronger color. Some of the shots are rather washed out. However, it's apparent that they've probably pulled everything that can be made of this source material, since the bit rate runs between 9 and 10 Mbps, usually right at the top of the bandwidth possible in the format.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The sound is variable. Some segments have substantial hiss, but the dialogue is generally quite clear throughout. It's certainly not as bad as some in this series. The one false note is a badly dubbed sound of a dog growling.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: There are no extras. Chaptering is barely adequate, essentially corresponding to the commercial breaks when aired originally.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

Although quite brief (under an hour) and without extras, this is nonetheless a compelling performance by Bergman.


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