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Columbia TriStar Home Video presents
The Pact of Silence (Le Pacte du Silence) (2002)

"Not everyone likes to stare the past in the face."
- Gaëlle (Élodie Bouchez)

Review By: Mark Zimmer  
Published: December 01, 2003

Stars: Gérard Depardieu, Élodie Bouchez
Other Stars: Carmen Maura, Isaac Sharry
Director: Graham Guit

Manufacturer: DVSS
MPAA Rating: R for some violence and language
Run Time: 01h:28m:31s
Release Date: November 04, 2003
UPC: 043396007154
Genre: foreign


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-B-A+ B-

DVD Review

There's something inherently creepy about twins, a fact that was exploited to great extent by David Cronenberg in Dead Ringers. The same goes for nuns, and the two heebie-jeebie-inducers are artfully melded together in this French psychodrama that splinters reality and forms its own puzzle.

I'll avoid giving too much of the plot away; much of the enjoyment of this picture comes from assembling the jigsaw puzzle. Suffice it to say that it centers on a young Carmelite nun, Sarah (Élodie Bouchez), who suffers from strange fevers and agonizing abdominal pain that does not have any apparent cause. When doctor/priest Joachim Ferrer (Gérard Depardieu) learns of this strange case, he becomes obsessed with finding out the secrets that Sarah shares with her twin sister, Gaëlle (also Bouchez). But Father Joachim has secrets of his own, and an enterprising reporter, Xavier Morel (Isaac Sharry) is bent on discovering them all.

Director Graham Guit creates an intriguing assemblage of pieces here by fragmenting time, place, and characters. The viewer is well into the film before it's clear exactly what is being shown in various fragments. Flashbacks interact with present time in startling fashion and the situation only gradually makes itself clear as the priest investigates. This holds the interest much in the same way that the fragmented time in Memento does, though not quite with the same twist payoff. In the climax, however there are either some cheats or continuity glitches that make it a bit harder to suss out than it really should be; one twin should have blood on one of her hands, but in several shots neither one is bloody, making it difficult to ascertain which is which. While this in part echoes Father Joachim's confusion, it's playing a bit more fast and loose with reality than I was prepared to accept.

Depardieu turns in his usual fine performance as the driven and self-loathing priest. However, the action really centers around Bouchez's dual role and she is marvelous. Playing both parts with her face completely impassive, she uses her highly expressive eyes in sequences that are largely silent in order to pantomime everything that the viewer needs to know. She also excels in her wordless interactions with extras, particularly in the convent sequences. Also notable is Spanish actress Carmen Maura as the strict Mother Emmanuelle, who guards the secret behind Sister Sarah; despite her seemingly cruel exterior she often displays credible affection for her charge and one can plausibly consider her actions as being taken for Sarah's own good.

Much of the impact in the DVD presentation is created by the highly aggressive audio mix. The immersing audio track greatly accentuates the effects of disorientation, especially as audio from other times and place plays over the convent in the present. The impression the sound gives in these sequences of the rush of memory is not unlike that of Proust's madeleine.

There is some highly gory violence and a brief moment of nudity not noted by the MPAA in its rating description.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen picture looks pretty good for the most part, with plenty of detail and texture, and excellent color. However, there is excessive edge enhancement added, making prominent and annoying rings around Depardieu's shoulders whenever he's wearing his black clerical garb. On rapid pans over woods and fields, video noise is also visible. Blacks are solid and I didn't notice much pixelation, although aliasing on the priestly collars is a commonplace occurrence. What initially look like poorly transfered shots are later revealed to be done purposely, so no points are deducted here for those moments.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: As noted above, this is a very pointed audio track. Bass is pounding and surround activity is both frequent and authoritative. Dialogue is crystal clear, sirens sound like they're in your lap, and Alexandre Desplat's music score has a smooth presence that fits well into the scene. Even though none of the audio is from the live performances, it matches seamlessly and doesn't distract in the least. First-rate all the way around.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Commentary (English) with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Darkness Falls, Identity
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Graham Guit,Élodie Bouchez
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The principal extra is a commentary, in French (with optional English subtitles), from the director and Bouchez. Although there are some dead spots early on, the pair eventually get into the rhythm of the commentary. Unfortunately, there is not a great deal of detail about topics that are raised, such as the director's struggles with the producers about changes to the script. There are some discussions about actor motivations in general terms that will be of interest to anyone interested in the craft.

The accompanying trailer is in 1.78:1 nonanamorphic widescreen. Two other recent Columbia thrillers get their trailers presented in anamorphic mode, but that's it for extras. An alternate ending is described in the commentary but not included here.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

A splintered look at reality that rewards a second viewing, with a highly impressive audio track. The video transfer could be better, however.

 


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