Fatherland AKA Singing the Blues in Red (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - Powerhouse Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (10th April 2021).
The Film

Ken Loach collaborated with playwright Trevor Griffiths (Comedians) for this underseen political drama about an East German protest singer (played by Gerulf Pannach) who emigrates to the West when he falls foul of the authorities. He arrives to much interest from the media and a potentially lucrative record contract but wishes only to be able to perform his songs, and to find his father, another exile, who had left his home country during the 1953 East German uprising.

Video

Ken Loach political thriller-drama is a visually matter of fact, gritty and low key production; not one of his better known films and one that both he and his editor think didn't entirely work. The drama elements dominates and they both felt that it needed more thriller.

As said, the look is gritty, grainy, filmic 35mm with naturalistic colour values. Flesh tones are a tad pasty but are well defined. Primary colours are rich when they appear but ultimately this is a grim urban film and the mise en scene favours a more sober look. It's the kind of hard-hitting film that in the digital age would be desaturated but thankfully not here. Black levels are satisfyingly rich and true with fine detail in the shadows coming through and no untended crush; contrast is lowkey and supportive allowing highlights to punch through when needed and with no blowouts. No print damge or age-related issues and no signs of digital tinkering or compression artefacts.

The black and white dreams and flashbacks are inky monochrome and look fabulous; more stylised than the colour sections. They are pristine with no gamma bias to spoil the crystal qualities. Overall, this is a superb image very much of it's time that has been given a stunning underlying master and Powerhouse Films have afforded it a high bitrate, dual-layered disc and another killer encode.

1080/24p / AVC MPEG-4 / BD50 / 1.66:1 / 111:11

Audio

German / English LPCM 1.0
Subtitles: English HoH

A rock-solid, high quality mono track that is typical of the era. Plenty of solid base even if the range is obviously very limited. No distortions, no hiss even when cranked to a high volume. Dialogue and score come off very well as does the diegetic music played within the fictional world. Excellent subtitles are here for the German language bits and hard of hearing.

Extras

"Britain, Spring 1972" 1972 short (42:13)
"Talk About Work" 1971 short (15:58)

Two fascinating and incredibly interesting vintage short films presented in 1080/24p 1.37:1 with uncompressed LPCM 1.0 sound and with optional English hard of hearing subtitles. The shorter piece about various workers and their jobs is in monochrome and has a very low contrast appearance; it's not a punchy image but is clean with no damage or digital tinkering, grainy and well encoded. No gamma bias and and black levels are true; no unintended crush but overall the image is a little soft but I'd say that's true to the production.

The second and longer piece is in colour and it's not in as good a condition with plenty of dirt and damage sprinkled throughout; nothing major that'll spoil enjoyment. Lets just say it's got a very, very mild Grindhouse aesthetic. Colour is naturalistic but seems to have a age related bias creeping in although, again, nothing that will hinder appreciation. After all both of these little films are comparatively rare and massively valuable as an accompaniment to the main feature. Encoding is meticulous as usual for Fidelity in Motion.

"Language Barriers: Editor Jonathan Morris on Fatherland" 2021 featurette (6:19)

Interesting interview in which Morris gives his opinion on the film, the process and working for Loach. I was most interested in hearing Morris' view that having German actors speaking English slowed the lace of scenes and the film down. 1080/24p 1.78:1 in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo.

Trailer (1:15)

Vintage promo in German with no subtitles. 1080/24p 1.66:1 and with LPCM 1.0 sound.

Fatherland Image Gallery: Original Promotional Material (50 images)
Fatherland Image Gallery: Original Shooting Script (45 images)


Excellent, extensive HD galleries with plenty to savour; especially the shooting script.

36-page liner notes booklet by Frank Collins, an archival interview with Ken Loach, an extract from Loach on Loach, an overview of contemporary critical responses, new writing on the documentary films and film credits

Comprehensive hard copy companion; as usual, indispensable as a adjunct to enjoying the film.

Packaging

Standard clear BD Keepcase.

Overall

Another stellar presentation of a lesser known British-French co-production with topnotch image and sound quality. Extras are extremely valuable with two fascinating documentary short films and another chunky booklet. Gets my vote for the extras alone as one of the releases of the year with the shorts being of especially interest.

The Film: B- Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: A+ Overall: A+

 


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