A Woman in Winter

Starring: Jamie Sives, Julie Gayet, Susan Lynch, Jason Flemying and Brian Cox
Tartan Video
RRP: 19.99
Certificate: 12
Available 09 April 2007

Michael is a young local astronomer caught up in experiments to break down the barriers between space and time. An encounter with Caroline, an enigmatic French photographer, soon develops into an obsessive love affair. However, Michael's experiments have turned everything into a kind of claustrophobic dreamscape where all sense of reality has been lost. In a series of flashbacks, Michael's mental state collapses like the black star he's observing, as he struggles to work out if he is a ghost or if it is Caroline who has left this world...

Maybe I'm getting old and cynical, but these young love tales mixed with time travel don't do it for me any more. Okay, Back to the Future was fun (and still is) but there's something self indulgent and a little tacky when it's done as an Art House picture.

I remember at university one of my friends was studying film and I lost count of the number of students who made movies about a male outsider (always signifies the director/writer in my book) who meets a mysterious beautiful woman (who by rights shouldn't give him a second glance) they fall in love and then someone dies (the man, the woman, a small cat...) and the camera spins out of control to show the audience that the other part is lost without the dead partner.

While A Woman in Winter is far better than this, there are still too many points where I winced with embarrassment. There's Michael and Caroline's first meeting; their rendezvous in the Botanical Gardens; and Caroline's unfathomable insistence on standing on a bridge and twirling like a five-year-old.

While I got what the director was trying to do - and very clever it was too - I just couldn't help thinking it could have been a little less awkward in its delivery.

The director also hints, in his audio commentary, that the script is open to interpretation - that he really doesn't have the answers to what is going on himself. While I applaud his stance on not shepherding the audience through the narrative, it would have been interesting to hear what he thinks is happening in the story. I've already made up my mind (and to be frank the little clues dotted around the film don't really leave much room for guess work - if you re-watch the movie it's pretty clear what the story is) but the writer/director's point of view would have been welcomed.

Extras include an audio commentary with the director; a Making of featurette (23 mins); and a really poor music video - so nothing to really get you excited. This is a shame, because I think that the director could have provided a little more insight into what he was trying to achieve - instead of his insistence on continually mentioning that this movie was filmed in Scotland and his slightly racist attitude to the English. Everyone will take away something different from this movie (something I always applaud, but rarely witness these days) and it would have been great to have heard his original ideas of what he envisaged for the film, and how these changed once the filming process started.

Tartan, as ever, offer us a fantastic DTS surround soundtrack - which is well worth cranking up and annoying the neighbours. There are some seriously jumpy segments that rely on the sound in order to work, and these work so much better in surround sound.

At the end of the day this movie will not be to everyone's taste. But, even if you don't care for the story, you can't help but be impressed by the visuals. The lighting director and director of photography really earned their salary on this one. This is one of the most beautiful independent films I've ever seen.

Pete Boomer

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