Hysteria (2011) Blu-ray Review
- Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
- Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit)
- Subtitles: English, English SDH, Hindi
- Subtitles Color: White
- Region: AB (No Region C)
- Rating: R
- Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
- Digital Copies: NA
- Run Time: 99 Mins.
- Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
- Blu-ray Release Date: September 18, 2012
- List Price: $45.99
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(All Blu-rayDefinition.com screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
Of all the subjects to base a film on, director Tanya Wexler’s (Ball in the House; Finding North) Hysteria, based on a story by Howard Gensler with screenplay written by Stephen and Jonah Lisa Dyer, is one of the most unusual. A lighthearted period comedy/romance about the invention of the vibrator by one Dr. Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy; TV’s The Big C; Our Idiot Brother; Confessions of a Shopaholic) in Victorian England, the film is surprisingly welcoming and amusing, even while being a slyly naughty indictment of historical and modern views on female sexuality.
Dancy’s Granville is a determined young doctor schooled in the latest advances in science, like germ theory, that puts him right in the crosshairs of England’s old guard who refuse to change their ways. As a result, he can’t help but get fired from every job he takes. Finally, he finds a place at the office of Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce; TV’s Cranford; Echelon Conspiracy; Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End; De-Lovely), whose practice treating women for the catch-all diagnoses of “hysteria” isn’t exactly what Granville was looking for, but the minute he spots Dalrymple’s beautiful and charming young daughter Emily (Felicity Jones; The Tempest) and hears the salary he will be getting, he’s happy. The procedure for treating hysteria in Victorian England, as Granville will learn, is a manual stimulation of the vulva, which the women naturally love. Granville becomes the most popular attraction among the patients at Dalrymple’s practice and thoughts of him inheriting the business and marrying Emily are floated.
Meanwhile, Granville begins to develop a side relationship with Dr. Dalrymple’s strong-willed daughter Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal; The Dark Knight; Secretary; Donnie Darko). Charlotte is the polar opposite of Emily. She’s a progressive free thinker who has abandoned the rich, society life of her father to build a center to help the poor and fight for women’s right to vote. Naturally, in the Victorian era, Charlotte is a prime candidate for a diagnoses of hysteria.
As Granville’s workload explodes, the strain on his hand becomes too burdensome, and he is no longer able to satisfy his patients, leading to his loss of yet another job. That is when inspiration strikes. His benefactor, Edmund St. John-Smythe (Rupert Everett), has been obsessed with the newfangled technology of electricity and inventing things that use it. The pair discovers that an electric duster that St. John-Smythe had been fiddling with could mimic the process of vulva massage.
The screenplay nicely interweaves the light romance and historical fiction with the sexy, and while nothing here is laugh out loud outrageous or completely raunchy, it is gleefully entertaining and thoughtfully done at every turn. Gyllenhaal is as good as ever as the feisty feminist crusader ahead of her time, while Dancy plays his man of science dragged into a changing world role effortlessly.
Shot with the Arricam LT and ST cameras on Super 35, Hysteria shows up on Blu-ray from Sony looking rather good. The contrast is strong and there is strong textural detail. Blacks are rather deep for the most part, but occasionally darker areas do seem a tad bit noisy and slightly grainier than the general look of the rest of the image.
Audio is simple and dialogue-driven in this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit) soundtrack. There is, however, a strong sense of natural dynamic range in the classically-inspired film score. Dialogue is clean, and some subtle atmospheric effects populate the surround channels.
The excerpts from the documentary, Passion & Power: The Technology of Orgasm offer the best viewing for the supplements on offer here.
- Commentary with Director Tanya Wexler
- An Evening with Tanya Wexler, Hugh Dancy, and Jonathan Pryce – April 23, 2012 (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:12:26) – A Q&A from the Tribeca Film Festival.
- Hysteria: Behind the Scenes (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:05:41)
- Deleted Scenes (2.35:1; SD)
- Castelari Long
- Stitching Head
- Crying Over Bills
- Checking Patients
- Passion & Power: The Technology of Orgasm (1.33:1; SD; 00:43:07) – Excerpts from the full length documentary, Passion & Power: The Technology of Orgasm. This documentary traces the entire history of the vibrator and the misguided, misunderstood ideas about women’s sexuality through the ages.
- Theatrical Trailer (2.35:1; 1080p/24; Dolby Digital 5.1)
The Definitive Word
Every so often a film comes along that surprises you with its simplicity and subject matter. Hysteria is that film. It’s well done without being overdone; no one plays their roles too over-the-top, the different storylines come together well, and the end result is a satisfying and light bit of fun. It’s good to see such an adult topic handled with such delicacy as well. Recommended.
Additional Screen Captures