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New Video presents
The Intended (2002)

"A little bit of love is good for the trading station—helps it blossom. Unfortunately, I also have to think about the economic aspect."
- William (Tony Maudsley)

Review By: Matt Peterson   
Published: December 29, 2004

Stars: Janet McTeer, Olympia Dukakis, Brenda Fricker, Tony Maudsley
Other Stars: JJ Field, David Bradley, Philip Jackson, John Matthew Lau, Robert Pugh
Director: Kristian Levring

MPAA Rating: R for strong sexuality, nudity, some violence
Run Time: 01h:48m:07s
Release Date: December 28, 2004
UPC: 767685968437
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

The river swells. A boat approaches a rickety, rotten landing. Sarah (Janet McTeer) and her young lover Hamish (JJ Field) have fled the depression of post-WWI Europe to find happiness and fortune. Their destination lies within the untamed jungles of Malaysia, where a lone ivory trading post beckons, promising a future of hope. Upon arrival, the two are immersed by the lush greens, the native warriors, and the darkness of it all—it's the first time either has left the proper routines of England, and the shock is nearly debilitating. They are shown to a filthy room, shared with the local priest along with dirt and ants. It is a far cry from home, but it provides a glimmer of freedom in which Sarah and Hamish can express their love without the prying eyes of high society.

The post is run by a savage taskmaster: Mrs. Jones (Brenda Fricker) has claimed ultimate authority over her small patch of jungle for years, and she is unfazed by the deception necessary to execute her profitable business. Her son, William (Tony Maudsley), is a large child, rejected by English society and degraded to utter savagery by his mother and the cruel jungle alike. Erina (Olympia Dukakis) is the mother William never truly had. Like the other traders and natives who come and go, Hamish and Sarah want only to make their share, and move on. This is only temporary—a stopping point before they can make their new life together. After William brutally murders his mother in a staged human sacrifice, plans are suddenly changed. The priest senses William's sin, and burns his inheritance as punishment. As Hamish treks through a jungle of back breaking work, his salary is nonexistent, forcing Sarah to take extreme measures to survive. Love, greed, murder, and deceit mingle with the humid jungle air, creating a cruel play that casts innocence to the dogs.

With the tone of Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," The Intended is an intense study of dreams and human fallacies, told from a decidedly female perspective. Kristian Levring's meditation is given a welcome sense of immediacy through the use of digital video. Levring, a veteran of Denmark's Dogma 95, has carried over some of the movement's attributes, including the DV format. This is no Dogma film, however, opting for still, formal compositions instead of handheld photography. The few tracking shots are subtle and smooth. The smeary, yet edgy quality of the video works well here, peering deep into the darkness of the jungle with deep focus. Lighting is natural and effective—there are some beautiful images to behold. Nevertheless, I can't help but wonder how great this would have looked on film.

The bold imagery is coupled with some fine performances, led by the talented Janet McTeer, who brings a fine sense of concern and desperation to her character. Tony Maudsley's William is effectively immature, slimy, and corrupt, but not in an over-the-top or unreasonable fashion. Olympia Dukakis is virtually unrecognizable as the mysterious Erina, whose affinity for William is both disturbing and comforting. Smaller performances from Robert Pugh, Philip Jackson (as a bitter relative of William), and Brenda Fricker add to the ensemble. The saturating environment, distinctive period feel, and solid acting makes this worth viewing.

An appropriate sense of foreboding is present throughout—there is something about the jungle that causes a shedding of daily pleasantries. There are some faults: The slow pacing strains to find power at some points, and the majority of the film's sexual content feels forced and unnecessary. However, Levring and McTeer's script remains compelling, shifting between moments of discovery, hope, disappointment, and desperation. The Intended's themes suggest the writings of Conrad, but are certainly distinct. True, this is a harrowing descent into the savagery of humanity, but a firm sense of redemption is not swept away by the current.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: The 1.33:1 digital video imagery is well-captured. Some of the defects of the format are apparent, including occasional edginess and loss of detail. There is a softness throughout, but this adds to the unique look of the film.

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: A functional Dolby 2.0 track fills the soundstage nicely. Sounds of the jungle dominate the track, with the occasional source cue. Dialogue is sometimes hard to discern.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 12 cues
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
8 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. DVD Credits
Extras Review: A collection of fragmented Cast & Crew Interviews makes up the majority of the extras. Participants include Olympia Dukakis (04m:01s), Janet McTeer (04m:23s), Kristian Levring (05m:10s), JJ Field (03m:29s), Brenda Fricker (02m:34s), Tony Maudsley (03m:22s), Philip Jackson (02m:18s), and Robert Pugh (01m:22s). Comments cover the film's characters, themes, location, casting, writing and use of DV. Some of these interviews were poorly shot, and each is chopped up into small bits preceded by a title card.

Other extras include the film's theatrical trailer, a biography of director Kristian Levring, and DVD credits.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

Kristian Levring's immediate DV feature is ripe with bold themes and imagery, evoking the tone of Conrad. The environment and the plot—though occasionally awkward—remains compelling. While not highly recommended, this is at least worth a rental. New Video's presentation is acceptable.


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