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directed by Thomas Clay
UK 2005


In a depressing village in Northern England, Robert Carmichael (Dan Spencer) is a social misfit. He plays the cello, is teased by the girls in his class, and gets stoned with two expelled friends Joe (Ryan Winsley) and Ben (Charles Mnene) who are first introduced bullying a Muslim kid on his way to school (Robert and his mother's involvement in the arts makes them something akin to middle class in contrast to his classmates). Joe's cousin Larry (Danny Dyer, SEVERENCE) has just gotten out of prison and immediately starts dealing drugs again and gives Robert his first hit of Ecstasy (which he experiences slumped on a couch in front of a TV broadcasting news of the Iraq war while Larry and some other guys gang rape a stoned girl in the next room). The pacing is extremely slow as the film introduces its several characters is lengthy expository scenes. While this is somewhat annoying, combined with the film's sudden bursts of violence these scenes set up the idea that any of these characters could be on the receiving end when Robert finally snaps (even if you haven't heard of the climax in advance, you just get the feeling that Robert's "great ecstasy" is not going to be a pleasant experience for anyone but him). That comes when Robert, Ben, and Joe break into the home of TV chef Jonathan (Michael Howe) and his wife Monica (Miranda Wilson) - there is also the undercurrent of resentment of the encroaching gentrification of the village - in which Robert sheds his disguise and surpasses his buddies in a transgressive act of sexual (and sexualized) violence. The attempts to draw a parallel with the U.S. invasion of Iraq (and the British participation in the war) are a bit heavy-handed (as is intercutting World War II stock footage with Winston Churchill with the rape which seems like the work of a film school student just learning about Eisenstein's editing techniques and Metz's Grande Syntagmatique). Yorgos Arvanitis' (Catherine Breillat's ANATOMY OF HELL) cinematography wrings beauty out of the seaside townscape and even keeps things slick and mobile during the violent finale. Whether one finds the film enjoyable (in relative terms) or not, one cannot help but feel cynical about any claims made by the filmmaker about their serious intentions.

Eric Cotenas


Theatrical Release: 20 October 2006 (UK)

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DVD Review: Tartan Films - Region 2 - PAL

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Tartan Films

Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 1:33:54 (4% PAL speedup)

2.39:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 7.18 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.


Audio English DTS 5.1; English Dolby Digital 5.1; English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
Subtitles none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Tartan Films

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.39:1

Edition Details:
• The Seven Stages of Robert Carmichael featurette (16:9; 25:26)
• Theatrical Trailer (4:3; 1:13)
• 4-page liner notes booklet

DVD Release Date: February 26th, 2007

Chapters 16



Tartan's dual-layer, anamorphic edition seems to represent Yorgos Arvanitis' cinematography nicely (with the exception of some rare aliasing). It is difficult to tell how manipulated the transfer is as several wide shots reveal anamorphic bowing and softness on the sides of the frame. The DTS and 5.1 tracks are restrained but likely represent the original mix while the 2.0 downmix is a home theater concession.

Director Thomas Clay provides a 20+ minute interview. The film's trailer rounds out the package. No English subtitles are included for the feature. The Tartan edition (UK) is now out of print but a new edition came out in 2010 from Metrodome (HERE) with a cover emphasizing Danny Dyer (over lead Spencer) and makes it look like an action flick (see the fourth poster below). I am uncertain how the technical specs compare but the Metrodome cover does not feature any visible DTS logo on the front so that option may not be present.

NOTE: Director Thomas Clay told us in email: "Two pieces of info regarding your Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael review:

1/ The new DVD from Metrodome carries only the 2.0 mix - which isn't a downmix of the 5.1, but, rather, a transfer of the film print's backup optical soundtrack, ie. of very poor quality. Metrodome claim they were unable to source the 5.1 elements, something I have been unable to verify. In any case, anyone who likes the film should seek out the OOP Tartan edition with the 5.1 DTS/DD soundtrack, which I personally supervised and which also contains some different music cues.

2/ Yorgos was the DoP on Anatomy of Hell for less than a week, with the majority of the work being completed by Guillaume Schiffman. A more appropriate link might therefore be to Fat Girl, or one of his many films with Angelopoulos.
" (thanks Thomas!)

  - Eric Cotenas


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Region 2 - PAL



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