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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » The Intended
The Intended
New Video // R // December 28, 2004
List Price: $26.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Scott Lecter | posted June 12, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:
During the time they spent working on The King is Alive, Kristian Levring and Janet McTeer decided they wanted to write a film together. The end result of that collaboration eventually became The Intended - a film which seems, on the surface, to be a period piece about a couple whose relationship drastically changes when they flee the depression of post-war Europe to work at an ivory trading post deep in the jungles of Malaysia. Upon further inspection, however, The Intended ends up being little more than a longer, more elaborate version of Indecent Proposal set in a dense jungle accessible by boat only when the river rises every six months.

Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh. There are certainly some nuggets of quality cinema to be found within the film. Kristian Levring definitely has a knack for making the most mundane, ugly jungle scene look oddly beautiful. His shots are mostly steady, as opposed to the handheld technique he employed for his Dogme 95 film The King is Alive, and the dark colors of the film's palette give it a very painterly feel. The fact that The Intended is mostly nice to look at helps make it more interesting. If it weren't for his knack for composition and use of color, Levring's film would be an incredibly dreary one about a couple essentially stuck in a deep jungle with a bunch of strange people.

What helps The Intended rise out of the doldrums, however, are the fine performances all the way around. Co-Writer (and star of the film) Janet McTeer brings a certain depth to the character of Sarah that may have been lost on an actress not as closely familiar with the script. McTeer knows this woman in every way imaginable, which allows her to bring a great mixture of strength and vulnerability to the performance. Sarah is an incredibly strong, independent woman that will do just about anything to help her young love, Hamish, but it's strikingly clear that she is absolutely tortured by her decisions. McTeer's performance is easily the highlight of the film.

The supporting cast also manages to pull their weight throughout the film. J.J. Field does some of his best work as Sarah's lover, Hamish, and Brenda Fricker and Tony Maudsley also provide some fine performances. Olympia Dukakis plays one of the oddest characters of her career and brings a real sense of caring to the role. She grounds her character more in reality than most actresses probably would have, and makes the character appear to be an woman with some misguided affection, rather than a weirdo shaman.


The Intended, unfortunately, just misses the mark too often for it to be really enjoyable. One of the most interesting aspects of the film - the rising and falling of the river that provides the only way on or off the trading post station - really acts more as a mechanism to trap the couple in the jungle rather than something that could have made for some very interesting scenes. When the boats leaves for the first time, Levring simply dissolves to a shot of the river suddenly dry. It would have been great to see the attitudes around the trading post as the river started to dry up. Instead of just showing us that Sarah and Hamish are there to stay, it would have been nice to be able to see their fear and intimidation in a place they know little about when their last chance of leaving dries up. I understand that Levring is making a film about Sarah and Hamish, not the weather patterns of a Malaysian jungle, but those types of touches could have had a lasting effect on the viewer.

Aside from these missed opportunities, Levring simply takes too long to get the real crux of his story going. When Sarah and Hamish arrive at the trading post, Levring takes way too much time getting to their story. He meanders around to the various subplots and secondary characters while nearly losing the heart of his film. The Intended, nonetheless, still manages to hold your interest, if only to see where McTeer will take her performance, and to watch Jen Schlosser's often-gorgeous cinematography.

The DVD

Video:
The Intended is presented in a 1.33:1 full frame format that has its fair share of problems. The digital video transfer is often a bit on the dark side and lacking in detail. The film's stylized color palette does manage to come across nicely, but there is a large amount of graininess present in the image throughout the film. Edge enhancement also makes its presence known and, while there are no signs of any other digital artifacts, there is a noticeable layer change. Shadows and lighting are fairly well delineated, but the overall murkiness of the transfer takes away from what is, otherwise, a very nice looking film.

Sound:
The audio on this disc is presented in a Dolby 2.0 stereo format that, like the video transfer, has a few issues. Dialogue is almost always clear, crisp, and distinct, but does tend to drop in volume from time to time. Despite this somewhat annoying occurrence, the dialogue is, however, always discernable. The track is fairly well balanced throughout, although there is some occasional level fluctuation and even a few high-pitched peaks. The Intended is mostly dialogue-driven, so there aren't exactly many chances for the sound effects to shine, but when the rain begins to fall near the conclusion of the film, the track does manage to provide a little thrill. Pumped through Dolby Pro Logic II encoding even allowed the track to show off a few surround effects during this sequence. The track, nonetheless, is adequate enough for this type of film.

Extras:
The main extra feature included on this disc is approximately 27-minutes worth of cast and crew interviews. The eight separate interviews feature Olympia Dukakis, Janet McTeer, Kristian Levring, J.J. Field, Brenda Fricker, Tony Maudsley, Philip Jackson, and Robert Pugh. Each interview must be accessed separately and, although they are often pretty engaging and insightful, the editing of the interviews really makes for a distracting experience. Instead of allowing the subjects to speak all the way through, the editors choose to show title cards before each tiny segment of each interview. This method, unfortunately, never allows the interviews to gain any momentum or flow, and ultimately acts only to take the viewer out of the segment. It is distracting and really takes away from what are, otherwise, some pretty decent interviews.

Also included on this disc are the film's theatrical trailer, and a text biography for Co-Writer/Director Kristian Levring.

Final Thoughts:
I might have been a bit rough when I called The Intended a longer, more elaborate version of Indecent Proposal. While that obvious plot manipulation is there near the conclusion of the film, the character that makes the proposal is somewhat unexpected. Ultimately, the film is a bit too long, meanders a little too much at times, and misses the mark when it could have provided something really interesting. Fans of Levring's work, nevertheless, will want to give the disc a spin. Much different from his Dogme 95 project, The King is Alive, this film still shows the promise of a director with a lot of potential. While the audio-visual presentation isn't exactly top notch, and the extra material is only adequate, I'd still recommended at least a rental, if for nothing more than to watch Janet McTeer at her best.

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