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Visions of Israel
I'm forgoing my usual onslaught of verbiage for this review of Visions of Israel, an hour-long program first seen on Public Television. This DVD's a one trick pony, and it does that trick quite well, but there's not much more to say than that. Presenting high-flying, high definition images of the Holy Land, this Acorn Media release is a natural for Israelis and those returning from, or about to go on, a trip or pilgrimage to Israel.
Ably narrated by Israeli-American violinist Itzhak Perlman, the program flies gently throughout all regions of the land. The camera is constantly in motion, soaring and gliding over stunning vistas, and dipping close to the ground to get up-close looks at various landmarks and edifices. This is top-rate photography of the kind at which Public Television camera operators excel. It's truly a gorgeous travelogue.
Soar over many major cities and towns in Israel, from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Ramble through Israel's impressive deserts and oases. Marvel at the Dead Sea (the lowest elevation on Earth) and gawk at sun-soaked tourist spots. And for most viewers most importantly, witness Israel's important historical and religious sites, such as Masada, the Wailing Wall, and the Dome of the Rock. All of these sites are visually arresting, rendered with care and beauty.
Perlman provides a soupcon of information about each site, city or scenic area. His narration will certainly provide you with a very basic understanding of the things you're viewing, but quite clearly is not meant to be a scholarly source for your term-paper. Undoubtedly you'll become excited about places you might not have considered visiting, or you might feel nostalgia for sights you've already seen.
Clearly, however, there's more to Israel than meets the eye. Perlman touches upon Israel's function as a center-point for three of the world's major religions; Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - mostly with brief mentions of historical context, but any such discussion doesn't extend beyond 1948, when the modern conflict between Israel and Palestine began in earnest. It is not the place of this travelogue to get into all of that, though with mention of previous historical religious conflicts in the region, it seems a fact almost impossible to ignore, even for such a diversionary DVD.
Overall, this is a gorgeous look at a gorgeous land that in many ways represents a confluence of history. Soaring camerawork and Perlman's pleasant narration make this an amiable and invigorating way to spend and hour, and a nice fit for anyone interested in traveling in the region, as well as for those who have deep ties there.
Presented in a 1.78:1 ratio enhanced for 16 X 9 televisions, the high definition images presented here look pretty fabulous. Detail levels are great, and colors are rich, natural and quite saturated. I felt like I was in danger of getting a sunburn from all the sun-soaked imagery. My one complaint, perhaps due to my somewhat low-tech set-up, is that the constantly moving camera seems to create a bit of shimmer, especially with detailed images. In particular, forested areas and craggy desert vistas have a bit of digital wiggle in them, but as noted this might be due to my S-Video cable.
Dolby Digital Stereo Audio is fine and up to the task. Perlman's narration is paramount, but only when he's talking. At other times the soundtrack gives way to regional music, creating a beguiling atmosphere. There is no conflict between the two elements, and the audio range is nicely broad.
23 minutes of Bonus Footage (with music but sans narration) is beautiful, but aside from Closed Captioning, is the only available extra.
This gorgeous high definition travelogue/documentary provides a beguiling overview of Israel. Itzhak Perlman's narration covers briefly some of what you'd like to know about the various scenes and sights. From Israel's deserts to its coastal tourist traps, there's a lot to marvel at in this hour-long program, perfect for those interested in travel to the country, or for those with ties there. If that sounds like your cup of tea, then this DVD is Recommended.