Release List Reviews Price Search Shop Newsletter Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray/ HD DVD Advertise
DVD Talk
Reviews & Columns
International DVDs
Reviews by Studio
Video Games

Collector Series DVDs
Easter Egg Database
DVD Talk Radio
Feature Articles

Anime Talk
DVD Savant
HD Talk
Horror DVDs
Silent DVD

discussion forum
DVD Talk Forum

DVD Price Search
Customer Service #'s
RCE Info



The Stone Raft

The Stone Raft
Image Entertainment
2002 / Color / 1:85 flat letterboxed / 117 100 min. / La balsa de piedra / Street Date July 12, 2005 / 14.99
Starring Federico Luppi, Icíar Bollaín, Gabino Diego, Ana Padrão, Diogo Infante
Cinematography Goert Giltay
Art Direction Félix Murcia
Film Editor Jan Dop
Original Music Henny Vrienten
Written by Yvette Biro,ĘGeorge Sluizer from a novel by José Saramago
Produced by Fernando Bovaira, Anne Lordon, Luís Bordalo Silva, George Sluizer
Directed by George Sluizer

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

Viewers looking for something fantastic but intelligent will be intrigued by The Stone Raft, a wholly original Spanish-Portuguese-Dutch co-production derived from a fanciful novel about a group of special people coping with a patently impossible geological upheaval. The optimistic story has a refreshingly humanistic response to potential disaster and an unknown future. Not many movies about cataclysmic events present a positive attitude toward the human race, which automatically puts The Stone Raft in a class by itself.


Five people and a lost dog visited by unusual phenomena or abilities seem connected to a bizarre geological event: The entire Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) separates from Europe and starts to move into the Atlantic Ocean. Pharmacist Pedro Orce (Federico Luppi of Cronos and Men With Guns) feels tremors in the Earth even though the peninsular movement doesn't show up on seismographs. Joaquím Sassa (Diogo Infante) was observed throwing a heavy rock, which skipped hundreds of yards across the ocean. Teacher José (Gabino Diego) is followed by a flock of starlings, no matter where he goes. And Joana Carda (Ana Padrão)made a small crack in the ground that cannot be erased. A dog named Fiel leads these odd misfits to María Gueveira (Icíar Bollaín), a widowed farmer with her own inexplicable miracle to ponder. The group undertakes an idealistic pilgrimage as Iberia continues to drift Westward, leaving the Rock of Gibraltar behind.

The above synopsis doesn't begin to explain the appeal of The Stone Raft, a hefty slice of magical realism that some web reviewers have damned as boring. Approached as a whimsical conceit, it's no less intriguing than any other shaggy dog story. It has strong similarities with Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds but opts for romance in place of horror thrills. Besides its few scenes of geological fantasy, it also has little in common with the Science Fiction cataclysms found in Andrew Marton's Crack in the World and Shiro Moritani's The Submersion of Japan. The detachment of hundreds of thousands of square miles of Europe is a relatively peaceful event that causes distress but ends up as more of a political catalyst. Nobody knows why Iberia leaves a bit of English territory behind as it wanders westward - will it form a new Atlantis? Are the Spanish and Portuguese nations going to reunite with their New World brothers in South America?

The international repercussions are only lightly sketched as The Stone Raft quite satisfactorily concentrates on its odd group of pilgrims. Director George Sluizer (The Vanishing) and his co-writer Yvette Biro do an excellent job of making them likeable and loveable adventurers. The non-exploitative adaptation of Nobel Prize winner José Saramago's novel doesn't put the five through a post-disaster ordeal. Only once do panicked villagers threaten the publicized Señor Orce as somehow being responsible for the rift.

The Stone Raft instead uses its 'disaster' as a way of pulling the rug of complacency out from under its kindly and resourceful heroes. Responding with positive human values, the five discover love, form relationships free of monetary concerns and appreciate their lives all the more. The film also does what a generation's worth of 'free love' movies couldn't, in a plot thread in which the two women generously give themselves to the old pharmacist to relieve his loneliness. There are moments when Joaquím considers leaving, but we in the audience really care that the group stay together.

The Stone Raft has a deliberate pace and refuses to signal its purpose or offer audiences an easy handle for its offbeat story, so it's no wonder that many reject it. Good CGI effects sketch the various 'miracles' that remain, as Joana Carda says, as unexplainable as why the Earth is a spinning globe orbiting a star in a limitless void. Humans accept so many things on faith, there's no reason why we can't cope with an additional mystery or two. Even better, the possible political significance of The Stone Raft is left up for grabs - it's a fairy tale for grown-ups.

Image's Disc of 2002's The Stone Raft is a good presentation of a film virtually unknown in America. The world of commercial filmmaking makes room for only a couple of hundred easily marketed titles per year and is dominated by distributors who can afford global marketing strategies. The handsomely transferred 1:85 image is not enhanced for 16:9 presentation, making it inconvenient to enlarge on a widescreen monitor without cutting off the English subtitles. The audio is listed as Dolby Stereo.

The simple Spanish menus pose no drawback; what we miss is more information on the author or the great actors in the film. A web search uncovered a wealth of material on author José Saramago, but mostly in Spanish. The politically outspoken Saramago approves of the adaptation and says one of the male characters was invented for the movie.

To get the international benefit of DVDs these days, one has to reach out. The business systems that make mass cinema possible allow diversity but do not reward it. For the refreshingly different and deserving The Stone Raft, all that English readers can find on the web so far are a few negative comments.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, The Stone Raft rates:
Movie: Excellent
Video: Good but not 16:9 enhanced
Sound: Excellent
Supplements: none
Packaging: Keep case
Reviewed: July 8, 2005

Republished by permission of Turner Classic Movies.

DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2007 Glenn Erickson

Advertise With Us

Review Staff | About DVD Talk | Newsletter Subscribe | Join DVD Talk Forum
Copyright © All rights reserved | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use

Release List Reviews Price Search Shop SUBSCRIBE Forum DVD Giveaways Blu-Ray/ HD DVD Advertise