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The best way for me to describe the viewing experience of the film Closer is to compare it to watching a ten-car pile-up on the freeway from a distance on a bright, sunny day where everyone is motoring away just fine until that first driver slips up. You can see each separate crash coming, but can’t look away out of some morbid curiosity and each of the more mundane incidents that happen in between each collision seem inconsequential at first in comparison to the destruction wrought with each vehicle unlucky enough to get caught up in it.

The film involves the loves and betrayals between four individuals living in London. By chance and happenstance, failed novelist and obituary writer Dan (Jude Law) meets American Alice (Natalie Portman) while on his morning commute and almost immediately the two seem to share a connection. Time passes and later their meeting and subsequent relationship sets off a string of circumstances wherein Dan meets, and instantly desires, American photographer Anna (Julia Roberts). This also leads him into corresponding with dermatologist Larry (Clive Owen) in an internet chat room posing as Anna, or at the very least simply using her name. He unwittingly sets up a meeting between Larry and Anna which leads to a romance between the two. As the story of these four peoples’ lives begins to unfold over the course of time, they become entangled with one another, deceiving, betraying and lashing out all in the name of truth, honesty and love, words that to each of them carry very different meanings and consequences.

The film is told from a rather interesting perspective, one which leaves out the more day to day details in the relationships of these characters and focuses on their most poignant moments, jumping weeks, months and years in the process. Like remembering any past relationship, the attention is placed fully on the major events in the life cycle of each relationship rather than including all of the good and bad in between. This leaves the audience unsure as to where their professed love actually comes from and forces the question as to whether or not these people actually love each other as much as they proclaim to, and if so at what lengths are they willing to go in order to reclaim it once it begins to slip through their grasp. Much of the enjoyment of the film is derived from this time jumping construct as what is left unsaid or unseen is as important as the obvious interactions between the characters. As the film progresses these hidden elements become clearer and more obtrusive to their relationships as they seek the truth and to tell the truth concerning their extracurricular indiscretions and mend their broken hearts or pride.

The film is carried by excellent and nuanced performances with each character hiding a side to themselves that slowly emerges over time to contradict their given stereotype based on first impressions. Jude Law plays Dan, an innocent who sees love as a romanticized entanglement and practices the belief in love at first sight and, although he likes to play, just isn’t very skilled at any of the games between lovers. Alice, as played by Natalie Portman, turns out to be much more than the mere waif she purports, and despite what background we actually know of her, turns out to be the most honest and uncompromising character in the film. Julia Roberts’ Anna believes she is one thing and declares at one point that she is “not a thief”, but in reality is the most dishonest of the four when it comes to matters of the heart. Larry, played by Clive Owen, is the most morally twisted and vindictive character of the lot and the one I found to be the most interesting and flawed out of the four. Like a cornered animal, his true nature emerges from his persona when forced into an undesirable situation or when he has reached his lowest point and turns truly unmerciful when he gains the upper hand. Although the script by Patrick Marber, based on his play, undoubtedly deserves much of the credit for the movie and characters, without these extraordinary and unflinching performances the movie might have fallen much shorter from the heights it sets out to achieve.

Closer doesn’t pull any punches while looking into the lives and relationships of these people as it tears away at their facades to show who they really are and what they will do while in the pursuit of whatever happiness suits them best. Unlike most of the film’s characters, it is an honest and true picture which deals with real adult themes, but like most of the characters it is brutal in its depiction and pursuit of those same virtues. It is a deceptively affecting film, one in which all of the emotional baggage it carries along with it may not be fully realized until the end credits roll.

Columbia presents the film on this DVD with an anamorphic transfer at its theatrically exhibited aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and has also included the film in their Superbit line of titles. Though at times the transfer isn’t as sharp as it should be, on the whole the video transfer does the movie justice. With an average bit rate of around 7.0 Mbps, the transfer is largely free of any major defects such as artefacts or pixilation, colours and flesh tones are vibrant and natural respectably and the transfer deftly handles contrasts between light and darkness. Overall, the video transfer presented here is quite good and represents what a recently released film should look like on DVD.

Closer contains audio tracks in Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1, both in English, and a Dolby Surround 2.0 track in French with optional English and French subtitles. The film doesn’t rely on an effects-heavy sound mix due to its nature, but when the appropriate time comes for the surround channels to kick in, both the 5.1 audio mixes do their job very well. Dialogue is always clear and crisp and the sound levels for all speaker channels are evenly mixed. It was difficult in this case to single out either the Dolby Digital or DTS tracks as being better than the other, but as in most cases the DTS track is slightly superior in range and depth, although either one will please the most hardened audiophile. Overall, the choices here represent a very good audio presentation for the film and your home theatre.

Seeing as this is a Superbit release from Columbia one wouldn’t expect much in the way of special features on the disc, and for the most part that assumption would be correct. Included with the film is a music video from Damien Rice entitled ‘The Blower’s Daughter’, a song that is used on more than one occasion in the film. The video is fairly standard stuff interlacing Rice with clips from the film, but the song is very good in an adult contemporary way; as far as music videos go it isn’t a bad one at all. The other features are trailers for numerous other Columbia titles, such as Guess Who, Bewitched, Hitch, Spanglish, House of Flying Daggers, The Woodsman, Being Julia, and A Love Song For Bobby Long, as well as the trailer for the film Closer itself. The first three trailers mentioned are also included as pre-menu trailers before the main menu on the disc, but are still accessible from the special features menu.

It would have been nice to see a few more special features included with the disc such as audio commentary or a featurette on the film, and judging from the amount of disc space left available there easily could have been something more included. Such is the major flaw with Columbia’s Superbit line of titles though I’m afraid, and the fact that there are at least a few extras, including a nice menu system rather than the usual drab one offered on these titles, is a small step in the right direction.

Closer is a deep and gut-wrenching film and one where the true rewards come from reading between the lines and focusing as much on what is left unsaid than what is given in the actual dialogue. An excellent script and performances elevate the film to greater heights than it would have achieved had it been made with lesser talents, and the effect of the film will linger with you long after the last frame has faded to black. Columbia’s Superbit presentation of the film on DVD features very good video and audio but offers very little in the way of extras for the film like so many of the other titles included in the line; an audio commentary from director Mike Nichols or writer Patrick Marber would have been a most welcome addition to the package. I can easily recommend the DVD based on the multi-layered film itself, but those looking for more substance from not only the picture but from the DVD as well may want to pass on a purchase and choose to rent the title instead.