Testament of Youth (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
October 15, 2015 by Dennis Amith
“Testament of Youth” is a wonderful yet tragic film with a clear defining message paying great respect to author Vera Brittain. James Kent’s film adaptation of “Testament of Youth” is well-crafted and worth watching!
TITLE: Testament of Youth
FILM RELEASE: 2015
DURATION: 150 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 Aspect Ratio), English, German 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Czech, Hungarian, Polish VO, Spanish, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles: English, English SDH, Bulgarian, Chinese Traditional, Croation, Czech, French, German, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian Buhasa, Korean, Polish, Romanish, Serbian, slovak, Slovena, Spanish, Thai, Turkish
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics
RATED: PG-13 (Thematic Material Including Blood and Disturbing War Related Images)
Release Date: October 20, 2015
Based on the Autobiography by Vera Brittain
Directed by James Kent
Screenplay by Juliette Towhidi
Executive Producers: Hugo Heppell, Zygi Kamasa, Christine Langan, Richard Mansell, Joe Oppenheimer, Henrik Zein
Produced by Rosie Alison, David Heyman
Co-Producer: Celia Duval
Music by Max Richter
Cinematography by Rob Hardy
Edited by Lucia Zucchetti
Casting by Lucy Bevan
Production Design by Jon Henson
Art Direction by Philip A. Brown
Set Decoration by Robert Wischhusen-Hayes
Costume Design by Consolata Boyle
Colin Morgan as Victor Richardson
Alicia Vikander as Vera Brittain
Taron Egerton as Edward Brittain
Dominic West as Mr. Brittain
Emily Watson as Mrs. Brittain
Kit Harington as Roland Leighton
Joanna Scanalan as Aunt Belle
Miranda Richardson as Miss Lorimer
Testament of Youth is a powerful story of love, war and remembrance, based on the First World War memoir by Vera Brittain, which has become the classic testimony of that war from a woman’s point of view. A searing journey from youthful hopes and dreams to the edge of despair and back again, it’s a film about young love, the futility of war and how to make sense of the darkest times.
In 1933, the memoir of author Vera Brittain was released. Titled “Testament of Youth” which covered Vera Brittain’s life from 1900-1925 (followed by “Testament of Experience” of her years from 1925-1950 and “Testament of Friendship” about her colleague and friend Winifred Holtby), Vera Brittain’s books are historically important in British literature, as well as feminist literature.
“Testament of Youth” is acclaimed for its depiction of World War I but also the lives of women and the middle-class of Great Britain. It’s also important as it is considered a classic in feminist literature depicting a woman’s struggle to have an independent career in a society where educated women were not too tolerated by society.
And in 2014, a film adaptation of the life of Vera Brittain was brought to the big screen courtesy of director James Kent (“Margaret”, “The Thirteenth Tale”, “The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister”) and writer Juliette Towhidi (“Calendar Girls”, “Love, Rosie”).
The film stars Alicia Vikander (“Ex Machina”, “A Royal Affair”, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”), Kit Harrington (“Game of Thrones”, “Pompeii”, “How to Train Your Dragon 2”), Colin Morgan (“Merlin”, “Legend”, “Parked”), Taron Egerton (“Kingsman: The Secret Service”, “Legend”, “The Smoke”), Dominic West (“300”, “The Wire”, “Chicago”), Emily Watson (“War Horse”, “Red Dragon”, “Breaking the Waves”), Joanna Scanlan (“Notes on a Scandal”, “Girl with a Pearl Earring”, “Stardust”) and Miranda Richardson (“Sleepy Hollow”, “Empire of the Sun”, “The Phantom of the Opera”).
The film will be released on Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics in October 2015.
“Testament of Youth” revolves around Vera Brittain (portrayed by Alicia Vikander), a young woman who desires to become a novelist and to attend Somerville College in Oxford.
At first her father is against her attending Oxford as he thinks its a waste of money to pay for a young woman’s education and would rather see her focus on playing the piano and marrying a man.
But after her brother Edward (portrayed by Taron Egerton) has his friend Roland Leighton (portrayed by Kit Harington) come over and vouch for her to attend college, her father allows her to attend Somersville College.
She eventually begins to fall in love with Roland and the two have a romantic relationship. Both plan to go to Oxford together and enjoy their time in college.
But life changes when Roland, Edward and his friend Victor Richardson (portrayed by Colin Morgan) join the military to serve their country in World War I.
The film features Vera’s life as a student in Somerville College as she is being mentored by feminist Miss Lorimer (portrayed by Miranda Richardson), her experience during World War I to join the Voluntary Aid Detachment as a nurse for both the British and the enemy who were wounded in combat but also her life with her brother Edward, her fiance Roland and their friends Victor and Geoffrey.
And how out of tragedy, a story of a woman became an amazing story of courage, independence but also the struggles for an educated woman in society during the early 1900’s.
“Testament of Youth” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:39:1 aspect ratio). I have to admit that there were interesting cinematic directions coming from cinematographer Rob Hardy (“Ex Machina, “Boy A”, “Blitz”) during the making of this film.
For one, capturing the emotion and vitality of actress Alicia Vikander as Vera Britain was well-done. Capturing the emotions and the tragedies of war was also well-done. Although, it’s rather interesting to see the director shoot bokeh-driven scenes when showcasing her and her brothers in the countryside, I think the location shots and the close-ups were well-done.
Picture quality is very good, there is a good amount of grain, with some moments of softness but for the most part, closeups show great detail and if anything, while not necessarily vibrant, the film shows a sort of moody, melancholic atmosphere, which probably matches a lot of the unfortunate experiences which Vera had to go through in her life.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Testament of Youth” is presented in English, German 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track 5.1 Dolby Digital, Czech, Hungarian, Polish VO, Spanish and Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital. The film is primarily dialogue and music score driven with surround channels more for ambiance.
Subtitles are in English, English SDH, Bulgarian, Chinese Traditional, Croation, Czech, French, German, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian Buhasa, Korean, Polish, Romanish, Serbian, slovak, Slovena, Spanish, Thai and Turkish.
“Testament of Youth” comes with the following special features:
- Commentary with Kit Harington and James Kent – Audio commentary with director James Kent and actor Kit Harrington (who plays the character Roland).
- Testament of Youth Behind the Scenes – (6:30) A behind-the-scenes of “Testament of Youth” and the cast and crew discussing the film.
- Deleted Scenes – (5:23) Featuring four deleted scenes.
- Theatrical Trailer – Theatrical trailer for “Testament of Youth”.
“Testament of Youth” is for the most part a wonderful film adaptation of British author Vera Brittain’s memoir written about her experience prior to World War I.
A woman of independence, well-educated and strong-willed, she is also a woman of courage and compassion and director Jeff Kent has done a magnificent job of portraying Brittain and her life and trying to keep a fine balance between what is autobiographical and a little change in order to make for a coherent and enjoyable film.
I have to admit that I was surprised when I watched this film, as I am not familiar with Vera Brittain’s literary classic but to find out how much pain she had to endure, but the strength she had to pursue what she believed in.
I really don’t want to spoil the film, although those familiar with Vera Brittain already know the tragedies that she faced one after another during the war and unfortunately, there is more pain that she had to endure (that is brought up in the informative audio commentary by director James Kent) not included in the film but in the memoir.
It was interesting to see how she was treated because she was a well-educated woman who wanted to further her education in Oxford. Her father saw it as a waste of his money to use his money for her college education, others treated her unfairly because she went to Oxford. But she persevered, despite the pain she had to endure quite often in her life.
While the film takes place during World War I, this is not a war film but more about a woman who learned from war, up close & personal.
Swedish actress Alicia Vikander delivered a wonderful performance throughout the film and while featuring a notable cast, it is Vikander who carries this film on her shoulders and delivers her greatest performance thus far.
Picture quality of the Blu-ray is very good, but not vibrant, in fact more on the melancholic side, which fits the film quite well. The lossless soundtrack is primarily dialogue and musically driven. And there are a few special features including audio commentary, deleted scenes and a behind-the-scenes featurette.
Overall, “Testament of Youth” is a wonderful yet tragic film with a clear defining message paying great respect to author Vera Brittain. James Kent’s film adaptation of “Testament of Youth” is well-crafted and worth watching!
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