Michael Haneke's Time Of the Wolf (Region 1 vs. Region 2)

I've generally thought of 2003's Time Of the Wolf by Michael Haneke (not to be confused with 2002's Time Of the Wolf starring Burt Reynolds) to be a good, but not top tier Haneke film. However, it's risen in my estimation on repeat viewings; and should probably get a few bonus points now for being a very likely but uncredited inspiration for Cormac McCarthy's The Road. And since I'm a pretty big Haneke fan overall, I wound up picking up both the US and UK DVDs, largely because they had a different set of extras. But going back to them in again in 2015, I'm noticing that the extras aren't the only differences.
The reliably exceptional Isabelle Huppert stars as a mother of a small family trying to stay together and survive after civilization has mysteriously broken down. They flee the city only to discover that things may be even worse in the country. But after losing their car, they have no choice but to wander the French countryside, eventually taking in with a group of fellow survivors in an abandoned train station, who wait because a train once passed down the line, so they gather in hope of another. It's a pretty powerful study of civilization, and the loss of individuality without societal structure; and as you'd probably expect, a grim look at how people will treat each other when order is lost. You can count on Haneke to keep the proceedings free of sentiment and phoniness, which helps make it a very revisitable film.

But if we're going to revisit it, which DVD should we revisit it on? The US disc from Palm Pictures, or the UK one from Artificial Eye. Well, let's have a look.
Palm's US DVD on top; Artificial Eye's UK DVD on bottom.
I left the subtitles on here because, unless you speak French, that's how you're going to view this film. The US disc has white subs, while the UK has grey ones that dip below the frame. But the most interesting thing about them is that they're different in the actual content. Nothing struck me as a signification change of meaning, but they're two different translations with frequently different wording, and I can't help but wonder which is the most faithful to the original dialogue.

But enough about subtitles, let's get into the picture itself. It's basically the same core transfer. Both are 2:35.1 anamorphic widescreen with identical framing, and both look kinda crummy. This film was shot on 35mm film, so it could benefit a lot from a revisit on blu-ray. But until that day, we've got what we've got, which is two standard def DVDs. And there are some definite distinctions.
Palm's US DVD left; Artificial Eye's UK DVD right.
I mean, both of these close-up images look underwhelming. But the US disc on the right looks softer and less defined that the UK on tie right. Although, on the other hand, detail is a little crushed out of the black areas on the UK disc (you can actually see her tongue and eyes, soft as they are, in the US shot on the left. It's a dark film, so I definitely appreciate the Palm pulling up as much image as they can, but both DVDs look so digital and pixel-y that I'd take the UK's smoother, more natural image over the US's.
Palm's US DVD on top; Artificial Eye's UK DVD on bottom.
And it looks like the US disc had some issues handling the NTSC conversion, as it has intermittent ghosting frames, which the UK disc is free of. You only really notice it in motion, and most of this film is very still. But still, no ghosting > ghosting. So put another in Artificial Eye's win column.
 
And what about those extras?
Let's start with Palm. They've got three core features: an interview with Isabelle Huppert, an interview with Hanake, and several minutes of uncontextualized behind the scenes footage. There's also the trailer and some bonus trailers for Springtime In a Small Town, Last Life In the Universe and Reconstruction. The interviews are okay but quite short and so fairly superficial. Huppert has a few interesting things to say about acting with the rest of the cast, and Hanaeke has a couple informative anecdotes. But both also spend a lot of their brief time explaining the very basic themes of the film, which, if you "got" the film at all, you won't find very illuminating. The behind the scenes footage is interesting for hardcore fans, but there's no narration, translated words or anything. It's just a little glimpse of what it was like shooting this on location, but if you're interested in the size of the crew, the type of equipment they used, etc; it's at least a nice little reveal.

Artificial Eye doesn't have any of the stuff that Palm had, but they have their own extras. Primarily, they have a 20+ minute 'making of' which combines behind the scenes footage (not the same footage as the US disc) and interviews. It's a much more cohesive piece, and feels much more engaging and rewarding than the combined extras on the US disc. There's also another brief featurette, a behind-the-scenes look at Haneke and co. at the Cannes film festival. It's definitely a minor extra, but still interesting. And the theatrical trailer is on this disc, too.
So what I've learned from this look back at both discs is A) how much this film needs a new scan and blu-ray release, with a much better image and more well-rounded extras. But, since there's no indication of one coming soon, then B) the DVD to go with is the UK's from Artificial Eye. The transfers are close and both have their pros and cons, so it's debatable. But I prefer the UK disc, and it definitely has the best extras. I also don't think it's worth getting both for the combined extras, because they're too sparse. Just pick one and live with it.

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