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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Drama > Sexuality > Science > Romance > Victorian Era > Hysteria (2011/Sony Blu-ray)

Hysteria (2011/Sony Blu-ray)


Picture: B     Sound: B     Extras: B-     Film: B-



These days, the media and even film has made sex a joke, so it is increasingly difficult to find any release that is witty, knowing and smart about the subject.  Tanya Wexler’s Hysteria (2011) is one of those ever rare exceptions, set in the late Victorian era, a doctor (Jonathan Pryce) is an expert in dealing with the “illness” of the title in women, though it is really about sexual oppression and most don’t know it, though some might and not want to discuss it.  He hires an assistant (Hugh Dancy) to help him out, which goes well at first, but then he starts to fall for his radical-for-the-time daughter (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and complications will ensure.


He also has a friend (Rupert Everett) who is working on a device to help the “condition” that seems to be plaguing women and it turns out to be what will become known as a vibrator, but the film is more about the people and politics of the time.  It is also classy, clever, witty and sly about all things sexual, yet the screenplay never allows for any missed chances to be (should I really say tongue-in-cheek) smart about the situation and leaves no double-entendre unturned without being just about the shallow side of things.


No, this is not an epic or even a outright comedy, but a well realized film about human nature and how it is often undermined by oppression and other issues.  Wexler has pulled off a solid piece of filmmaking that deserves more attention, but to this day, people are still uncomfortable with the subject mater no matter how well it can be handled as it is here.  I was pleasantly surprised overall and the many mistakes that could have been made are not.  Felicity Jones, Sheridan Smith and Gemma Jones also star.



The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer is slightly stylized to reflect the era, but was shot in the Super 35mm film format and used all Fuji motion picture stocks, stocks which it has been announced will be discontinued at the end of 2012, so this is one of the last major film releases anyone will remember shot with that product.  Director of Photography Sean Bobbit (McQueen’s Shame) has created a world that is natural, yet palpable and we get a slight dense richness that is just enough to b have us believe and feel we are there.  Color range is just fine and there are more than a few nice shots with detail and even a couple of demo shots.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is also impressive as this is more than just a dialogue-based work and we get a consistent, warm, refined, pleasant soundfield throughout, well recorded and with a fine music score throughout.  The combination is more impressive than many might expect for a costume piece (thank Jane Austen for lowering expectations) and will impress as well as surprise film fans and home theater owners.


Extras include a feature length audio commentary track by Director Wexler, Deleted Scenes, An Evening wit Tanya Wexler, Hugh Dancy and Jonathan Pryce featurette, highlights of the documentary Passion & Power: The Technology of Orgasm (reviewed in its entirety on DVD elsewhere on this site) and a Behind The Scenes featurette.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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