DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

DVD Pick: The Orphanage

One of the most accomplished films of the last twelve months was The Orphanage, an intelligent and highly effective supernatural thriller from Spain.

I thought of describing it as a ‘horror’ film, but this is much closer in style on tone to Pan’s Labyrinth or The Others and a world away from the glut of remakes that have been clogging up multiplexes of late.

The story involves a woman named Laura (Belén Rueda) who returns to the orphanage where she grew up and buys the property with the intention to turn it into a home for disabled children.

Along with her husband (Fernando Cayo) and son Simón (Roger Príncep) things seem to settle down well, but things take a darker turn when their young boy says he has an imaginary friend.

To say much more about the plot would be to spoil a beautifully crafted script that not only satisfies connoisseurs of atmospheric ghost stories but also those in search of something more emotionally involving than the standard horror movie.

It is a highly impressive directorial debut for Juan Antonio Bayona and after premiering at the Cannes Film Festival last year it went on to win considerable critical acclaim in limited release.

Guillermo del Toro helped bring it to the screen in his capacity as producer and the film bears some similarities to Pan’s Labyrinth with the exploration of parallel worlds and the importance of a child’s perspective on the cruelties of the adult world.

If you didn’t manage to catch it at cinemas then the DVD is well worth catching up with, especially as Optimum Home Entertainment have done a fine job with a very tasty 2-disc package.

Disc 1 includes:

  • The Main Feature: The transfer is presented in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is anamorphically enhanced. There are two Spanish language tracks, in Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo.

Disc 2 contains all the extras, which feature the following:

  • UK Exclusive Q&A with Bayona at Curzon Mayfair in London: This is video footage from a Q&A session held after a screening around the UK theatrical release. Hosted by Mark Kermode, it features Juan Antonio Bayona, sound designer Oriol Tarrago and a translator (Corrina Poore). It lasts about 40 minutes and covers some interesting points, such as: the origins of the project; the role of Guillermo Del Toro in getting the film made; the sound design of the film (and how hearing horror movies on TV as a child influenced Bayona’s work); whether or not the story is especially Spanish, the importance of suggestion over showing horror and a few other things as well. My favourite bit is when they discuss the proposed Hollywood remake and Bayona asks why people in Hollywood don’t like subtitles, to which Kermode gives the simple but immortal reply: “Because they are thick.” Disappointingly though, the sound feed wasn’t taken from the mixing desk so it sounds a little echoey, but nonetheless it is a solid discussion of the film.
  • The Making of The Orphanage: A general 12 minute promo that covers the making of the film, featuring talking head EPK bites from the cast and crew.
  • The Set of The Orphanage: A short 2 minute featurette on the set, which shows how they built the set of the orphanage in an enormous set.
  • The Sound of The Orphanage: A 6 minute featurette with commentary by Oriol Tarrago, showing the scene with the parapsychologists, but adjusting the sound to demonstrate how vital it was to the film.
  • Interview with Bayona and Del Toro in Budapest: An 8 minute interview with director and and producer in Budapest (or as Guillermo calls it ‘the porn capital of Europe’). I guess Guillermo was shooting Hellboy 2 in Hungary and bayona joined him out there to film this discussion of the film. It focuses on the themes and issues deep within the film and is an interesting – if brief – conversation.
  • Lighting the Darkness: A 5 minute piece on how the film was lit and how atmosphere was created without resorting to obviously ‘big’ effects. The mix and match of shots is also quite interesting as all the interiors were shot on a set and had to blend with the exteriors, shot on location.
  • Roger Princep – The Casting: An interview with the young actor who plays a key role in the film and is surprisingly lucid for his age.
  • Alternative Beginning and Alternative Ending: The alternative ending is more of an extra scene that was cut, it doesn’t really replace the original end in any big way – however, the final shot is very nice. The alternative prologue is a different matter, as it is quite a detailed sequence that foreshadows a lot of key developments in the plot. Bayano explains that he wanted to keep things simpler and that it was ultimately too complicated a sequence for the opening of the film.
  • Deleted and Extended Scenes: The deleted scenes vary in interest but most of them are very intriguing, especially one involving a face-to-face meeting with two important characters.
  • Storyboards for 3 scenes: The storyboards for the seance, treasure hunt and appearance of Tomas offer the early visual conceptions of these scenes and are played parallel to the final cuts.
  • Shooting the Credits:A short piece on how the credit sequence was designed using footage of real children then mixed together with digital footage.
  • Animatics:More storyboards showing how they previsualised scertain sequences in the film.
  • Trailer: US theatrical trailer with the requisite deepthroated voice over.
  • Projections: Appears to be handheld test footage of characters from the film.

So all in all a highy impressive DVD package for what was one of the best films to come out in the last year.

Watch the trailer here:

The Orphanage is out now on DVD from Optimum Home Entertainment

> Buy The Orphanage from Amazon UK
> IMDb entry for The Orphanage
> Official site
> Read reviews of The Orphanage at Metacritic