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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

Burning Bush aka 'Horící ker' [Blu-ray]


(Agnieszka Holland, 2013)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: HBO Europe

Video: Zebra (DMMS Media Distribution)



Region: FREE (as verified by the Oppo Blu-ray player)

Episode #1 Runtime: 1:23:46.040 

Disc Size: 43,337,794,553 bytes

Episode #1 Size: 13,578,768,384 bytes

Video Bitrate: 19.09 Mbps

Chapters: 17 X 3

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: February, 2015



Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080i / 25 fps

Video codec: VC-1 Video



Dolby Digital Audio Czech 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio Czech 448 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 448 kbps / DN -4dB

Dolby Digital Audio Hungarian 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps / DN -4dB
Dolby Digital Audio Polish 256 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 256 kbps / DN -4dB



Czech, Bulgarian, Serbian, English, Croatian, Macedonian, Dutch, Polish, Romanian, Slovenian, Hungarian, none



• Republic of Two: Directions Music Video (3:15)

Making of Burning Bush (28:00)

The cover is in Czech but the extras have optional English subtitles


Sample episode Bitrate:



Description: Burning Bush (Czech: Hořící keř) is a 2013 three-part mini-series created for HBO by Polish director Agnieszka Holland. Based on real characters and events, this haunting drama focuses on the personal sacrifice of a Prague history student, Jan Palach, who set himself on fire in protest against the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1969. Dagmar Burešová, a young female lawyer, became part of his legacy by defending Jan's family in a trial against the communist government, a regime which tried to dishonour Palach's sacrifice, a heroic action for the freedom of Czechoslovakia. Jan and Dagmar's story is one of basic human values, truth, honour, justice and courage.

The fight for freedom, for moral principles, self-sacrifice and protest in those desperate times led to the moral unification of a repressed nation, which twenty years later defeated the totalitarian regime. The anniversary of Jan Palach's death inspired a new generation of students to start protests that led to the eventual fall of communism in Czechoslovakia, part of the eventual destruction of the Iron Curtain.

Lawyer Dagmar Burešová, who spent her life representing dissident opposition leaders, became the first Minister of Justice in a free Czechoslovakia.

The film is dedicated to Jan Palach, Jan Zajíc, Evžen Plocek, Ryszard Siwiec and to all who sacrificed their lives while fighting for freedom.

At the International TV Festival in Monte Carlo, Ivan Trojan was awarded the prize of Golden Nymph for the Best Actor in a mini-series. It has been selected to be screened in the Special Presentation section at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.



The Film:

In the end, all that can be relied upon are objects and gestures. The littlest things that tie us to each other. The film often slows to a standstill to show children playing, cars passing, people talking and streets emptied of traffic. Life, in short, going on, despite the war raging nearby. Upon learning of his brother's death, Palach's brother Jiri is given a lift in an ambulance to his mother's house to tell her the news in person. The driver shares a cigarette with him on the way. A few weeks after his death, Palach's mother has her son's belongings returned to her by the police. In the film's most bewitching scene, Palach's comrades in the student movement pay a morgue attendant off so they can get to their friend's body. Once there, a sculptor takes a plaster cast of his face which is then placed in public view at their school. In the opening of Part 1, a crowbar digs into a muddy street, diverting the course of an oncoming train. A few feet away, a man strikes a match diverting the course of a nation. It doesn't get any less epic than that.

Excerpt from Roger located HERE

Unlike Russian filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev’s superior Leviathan—which premiered at last month’s Cannes Film Festival and tells a similar (fictional) story of ordinary citizens being systematically beaten down by the state when they attempt legal action—Burning Bush doesn’t dig a bottomless pit of despair, if only because we all know that Communism would collapse 20 years later. (Protests held on the 20th anniversary of Palach’s death were a big factor in Czechoslovakia.) Instead, it painstakingly shows how the Man covers his ass via intimidation, bribery, falsification, and blackmail, and it celebrates the heroic efforts of those who fight on anyway. Holland, a political filmmaker who did her best work (Europa Europa; Olivier, Olivier) in the ’80s and ’90s, sometimes directs with a heavy hand—a scene in which Palach’s mother receives horrific photos of her son’s charred corpse gets awfully amped up with the sound of a screaming infant in the background, for example. On the whole, though, Burning Bush is an absorbing docudrama that maintains a gratifying equilibrium between hope and cynicism. You can fight City Hall. It just takes a while.

Excerpt from A.V. Club located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The impressive 'HBO Europe' mini-series Burning Bush gets an internationally-friendly release on Blu-ray.  It is in, the original broadcast standard, of 1080i at 25fps. It's imperfect but I see no trailing and the dark grey and 60's pastels support the period with excellent art direction, costumes and even music. It can look a shade waxy at times but I would guess the 1.78:1 aspect ratio is a strong replication of the recent TV appearance. This Blu-ray includes some of the series' original black and white sequences meant to replicate newsreel footage and it is has a higher contrast levels and is meant to appear grainy. It gave me a thoroughly enjoyable HD presentation.






















Audio :

Unfortunately no lossless, but we get the option of a Dolby Digital 2.0 or a similar 5.1 - both in original Czech. It sounds clean, but unremarkable - there may be a few discernable separations in the surround. The score is by Antoni Lazarkiewicz with a fair amount of more period Czech-centric music including Matej Nechvátal, Karel Gott, Petr Sedlácek, Emma Smetana and others. It certainly adds to supporting the fabric of the time period. There are also two foreign-language DUBs (Hungarian and Polish) with many subtitle options including English. My Oppo has identified it as being a region FREE playable on Blu-ray machines worldwide.



Extras :

There are two supplements; a short music video entitled Republic of Two: Directions (viewable HERE on YouTube. It's Petr Novák and Jirí Smetana's Why Do You Leave Me) and a 1/2 hour Making of Burning Bush (with English subtitles) showing behind the scenes footage and director and cast interviews.



Wow. Totally under my radar - an appreciated recommendation - no expectations - and I was blown away. Some may note that the masterful Agnieszka Holland has also directed some episodes of House of Cards - Season Three and her grasp of this hour-based TV Series medium is fully apparent in both.  This is a wonderful mini-series - historical, educational and with endearing characters. What a fabulous choice for Blu-ray. I would never have seen this stellar HBO Europe series if not for this disc medium. I loved it - our highest recommendation! 

Gary Tooze

July 2nd, 2015



About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

Gary's Home Theatre:

60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
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Gary W. Tooze






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