Rosewater Blu-ray Review
Roses are among the sweetest smelling flowers around. There’s a reason they are the go-to flower on Valentine’s day. Mixed with water, they create a fragrance that, according to the opening narration on ROSEWATER, is meant for a pious man. However, one’s piety is truly in the eye of the beholder.
Well crafted, especially from a first time writer/director, ROSEWATER tells the story of journalist Maziar Bahari, on whose book, “Then They Came for Me,” the film is based. Bahari (Bernal) leaves his family in London and heads to his native Iran to cover the upcoming presidential election of 2009 for Newsweek magazine. While there he does a humorous interview for the American program The Daily Show. When Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is elected, Barhiri’s life is turned upside down when he is arrested under suspicion of “working with Zionists” to destroy the way of Iranian life. For months he remains in jail, as the day for his wife to give birth to their first child grows closer. He is questioned (and often tortured) daily by a mysterious man whom he doesn’t know. Yet, even when blindfolded, he knows his tormentor is in the room because he carries with him the smell of rosewater.
Pretty much a two-man show, ROSEWATER benefits from the performances of its lead actors. Bernal gives Bahari a strong sense of humor; he doesn’t understand why he’s being held and certainly doesn’t see himself as an enemy of the state. In fact, when he is first questioned at his mother’s home he can only laugh when he is confronted with questionable Eastern items. To his inquisitor, DVD’s of “The Sopranos” and other shows are “pornography.” When he is asked to explain a Leonard Coen album, he can only smile and agree; “pornography.” Months on end away from others can drive one mad and Bernal slowly takes that journey. As his nameless inquisitor, Bodnia projects a sense of righteousness, but not in a pompous way. He is following his beliefs as much as Bahari is following his. In his world, there is no gray, only black and white.
Though the film tends to jump from time period to time period (flashbacks show Bahari before he is detained), the narrative is easy to follow. Stewart the writer gives Stewart the director just enough of a story that the jumps aren’t jarring or disruptive. Even with most of the film confined to one room, the story flows easily and it is evident that Stewart put a lot of thought into the story he wanted to tell, as if he felt a true obligation to get it right. Technically the film is well put together, with special credit due cinematographer Bobby Bukowski and editor Jay Rabinowitz, who capture the feelings of helplessness in their work. Also a nod to composer Howard Shore, whose music accompanies, but never overwhelms, the on-screen action.
The film is quite an achievement for a first time director and I’m looking forward to Jon Stewart’s next foray behind the camera. ROSEWATER is a fine freshman effort.
Video: Presented in its original 1:85.1 aspect ratio, the transfer here is excellent. Even with a majority of the film taking place indoors, the images are sharp and clear.
Audio: Available in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, the soundtrack is well mixed. Even the quietest scenes are clean and audible.
A very disappointing collection of EXTRAS, mostly because of the short length of each.
Iran’s Controversial Election (0:49): A very brief look at…nothing. You’d think for a guy known for delivering news, whether it’s “fake or not,” that Stewart would have made an effort to explain to his audience the very reason for the film.
The Story of Maziar Bahari (0:49): A lightning quick piece that outlines the story of the film.
Real Spies Have TV Shows (0:50): Based on a line from the film, another featurette that flies by.
What Happens in New Jersey (0:51): A peek at some of the more “adult” moments in the film.
A Director’s Perspective (0:50): Writer/director Jon Stewart talks about the film.
Previews: (5) trailers for upcoming films, most of them just a little longer than all of the extras combined.