The Nightingale was one of my favorite films of 2019. I was lucky enough to get to see it in the theater, and it was an incredible experience from soaking in the gorgeous look of the film including the Academy aspect ratio to the incredible emotional performances of the actors.
The Nightingale director Jennifer Kent had an important mission with this film. She of course wanted to tell a brutal very emotional story, but she also wanted to show respect for a piece of history that is often overlooked and even worse often denied. The film is set in 1825 during the British occupation of Tasmania. The film, while telling a singular character study also embraces the tragic impact of the British occupation on Aboriginal people. Through conversations of the two main characters as they are on their adventure together we learn history that many of us may not have fully been aware of. Once you, the audience member, soaks in this history it makes the devastatingly sad story all the more epic and impactful.
The Nightingale is perfectly simple in it’s story execution staying focused on driving the narrative forward with pure emotion rather than heavy handed exposition. Conversations, good and bad, feel natural between characters as the story evolves. Aisling Franciosi carries this film on her shoulders. The movie would succeed or fail based on her performance and what we get is an Oscar caliber Best actress quality performance.
Franciosi plays an Irish prisoner forced into slave labor by British soldiers. She and her husband are constantly abused by one particular soldier and one night the abuse leads to a moment of incredible nihilism. The soldiers leave her behind and she begins to chase them down seeking revenge for what they had done with the help of a local Aboriginal. She’s not a perfect hero though, she also abuses her Aboriginal tracker and must come to terms with who she is and the realization that she is delivering the same torture that she herself has suffered.
The film is simple, tragic, and beautiful, near perfect. Honestly I can’t find fault with it. This is one of those very rare times I give a perfect sccore.
First off, this film deserves a 4k uhd. That won’t impact the score of the blu-ray, I just feel this film is being under appreciated globally. The standard aspect ration of this film may initially be off putting to some people but it doesn’t take long to settle into the almost claustrophobic look of the film. This presentation puts us in to tight on the characters, particularly during the scenes of extreme violence, making those scenes all the more disturbing. Colors look properly washed out compared to the theatrical experience and skin tones look about as accurate as they can on this format. A ton of work went into the costumes and sets to ensure period accuracy and often you can see these details quite nicely. Darker scenes are a bit murky at times and black levels could definitely be deeper. Overall a pretty nice transfer though.
There are two tracks, DTS Master Audio 5.1 and 2.1. In a home theater environment the 5.1 track is definitely the way to go. The track is quite immersive with the forest coming to life in the surrounds. Dialogue is clean and crisp in the center channel and during some of the more action packed scenes there are moments of surround separation. There’s minimal use of the LFE during action but it comes off a bit tepid. Overall it’s basic but good.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
Now this package is beautiful. The rigid box that houses the movie and extras is adorned with minimalist art that defines connectivity of the main characters with a color that just matches the overall film. The single blu-ray is packaged inside a black amaray case inside the box. The choice of black for the case is a great design decision because a blue case would have been pretty ugly in this set. A clear case would have worked and not confused people about the release being 4k. In the package is a perfect bound glossy finished booked with tons of stills from the movie and a series of excellent essays discussing revenge as a genre and character experiences.
There’s a phenomenal selection of extras on the disc including several actor interviews, a making of featurette, discussions with costume and set designers, contextualizing the film featurettes and so much more. All of these featurettes together give a fantastic behind the scenes look at the movie from the inception of the story to getting through violent scenes and assembling he movie. There is one really big failing of this film, a really big one; there’s no director commentary. How do you give such an important film so much love and not provide the director the running time of their film to share their thoughts on it? Here’s a complete list of the features:
- She Will Not Be Silenced: an interview with Actor Aisling Franciosi
- Sometimes Trouble Finds You: an interview with Actor Michael Sheasby
- Just Making Light, Sir: an Interview with Actor Damon Herriman
- I Surrender: an Interview with Actor Harry Greenwood
- Taking Flight: an interview with Producer Kristina Ceyton
- Assembling Vengeance: an Interview with Editor Simon Njoo (12mins)
- Building Something Special: an Interview with Production Designer Alexander Holmes
- Hear her Voice: an interview with Composer Jed Kurzel
- ‘Bloody White People’: A Video Essay by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
- The Nightingale in Context
- The Making of The Nightingale
- Theatrical Trailer
- New optional English subtitles for the hearing impaired
Limited Edition Contents
- Rigid slipcase featuring new artwork by Laura Racero
- 40 page perfect-bound booklet with new writing by Elena Lazic and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
- 3 collectors’ art cards featuring stills from the film
- 4th art card featuring new key art exclusive to Second Sight customers
The Nightingale is an incredibly powerful movie that literally required a company to give it a premium library release and Second Sight has done just that. Holding the complete package and looking it over it just exudes quality and it looks beautiful on the shelf. The only hiccups are a missing commentary and the need for a slightly stepped up video presentation.
Overall (Not an average) 8.5/10