The French language Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack comes with optional white subtitles in English only. The audio here is fine and the Mono track gets everything done without breaking too much of a sweat. Dialogue stays clear and the score is well balanced. There isn't any noticeable hiss nor is there any distortion and for an older film, The Fire Within sounds just fine on this DVD.
Extras on the DVD include a brief text biography of Louis Malle, which leads into a twenty minute interview recorded for German television with journalist Angelika Wittlich shortly before his passing in 1995. Malle talks about The Fire Within and why he cast Maurice Ronet, about how he went into a midlife crisis in his mid-thirties, and about the film's interesting camera work. Malle refers to himself as a classicist, how he respects unity of place, unity of time and unity of action in his work and he talks about why he chose to focus his career on more personal subjects rather than try to shoot a sweeping epic. Interesting stuff.
Up next is an interview with Maurice Ronet originally shot for a French television show entitled Portrait D'Acteur to promote his first film as a director, Le Voleur De Tibidabo in 1966. The black and white interview allows Ronet to talk about how he got his start as an actor after not really knowing what to do with his life. He talks about his work on films like Purple Moon and The Fire Within, and about some of the characters in his own feature film. He discusses the cultural impact of the generation gap and the French crisis of faith, and how he personally feels it's important to believe in something. This is a pretty personal interview and it's interesting to see Ronet really open up about his work, though he denies that he was obsessed with suicide during the filming of The Fire Within.
Malle's Fire Within is a collection of interviews wherein actress Alexandra Stewart and filmmakers Philippe Collin and Volker Schlondorff talk about the making of Malle's picture. They discuss how and why admiring Malle's films can be difficult and how The Fire Within was obviously a very cathartic and personal picture for him. There are a lot of pertinent clips and stills here used to illustrate various points and add a bit of flare to the proceedings but what this really boils down to is a trio of qualified experts expressing their admiration for a very unusual and atypical film and its director. It's a very nice and fitting tribute to Malle and his work.
Jusqu'Au 23 Jullet is a 2005 documentary from director Noel Simsolo that draws some interesting comparisons between The Fire Within and it's source, the novel Le Feu Follet by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle. Actor Mathieu Amalric, writer Didier Daeninckx, and Cannes Festival curator Pierre-Henri Deleau all show up on camera to discuss the differences between the two different versions of the story in this twenty-nine minute segment that sheds some light on the novel that Malle used as the inspiration for his picture.
Some stylish menus and chapter selection options round out the disc's supplements.
Inside the keepcase is a full color booklet that includes a chapter listing, credits for the film, an essay entitled Day Of The Deadby Michael Ciment, a second essay entitled Pale Fire from writer Peter Cowie, and a list of DVD production credits.
Criterion has done an outstanding job on the presentation here from the extras to the transfer and the film itself is an excellent and fascinating look at one man's self destructive tendencies and inner demons. It's a dark, personal film to be sure but it's exceptionally well made and well acted and this release comes highly recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.