The Matrimony is a Chinese supernatural thriller starring Leon Lai, Rene Liu and Fan Bing Bing. The story follows Junchu, a man imprisoned by the memory of his former love Manli, who was tragically killed. He has since married out of duty and convenience, and his new wife, Sansan, is trapped in this loveless marriage while continually trying to win his affection. But Manli’s ghost is still obsessed with Junchu, and approaches Sansan with an offer to help both get closer to Junchu. However, the offer is far from innocent and soon reveals disastrous consequences.
The Blu-ray release of The Matrimony has been done a disservice by its marketing department. The cover delivers a cheap but conventional image that pegs this as yet another nondescript horror film, complete with a decaying and disembodied hand. You know, the kind that will follow you in your dreams (WoooooOOOOO!). The movie itself is actually much more suited to general audience sensibilities, combining elements of a supernatural thriller, with what is basically a love triangle. The nostalgic setting of the film is probably also a nod back to the days of Alfred Hitchcock, when the marrying of these styles wouldn’t have seemed an odd choice. The story focuses much more on the romantic entanglement of the characters than it does on any reliance of cheap, “gotcha” horror movie moments (although there are a couple).
The plot has some lulls, as well as some obvious holes. Much of the back story of these characters is left to the imagination, and things focus quickly on just the current story at hand. But all of the performances are very strong and focused. In addition, the cinematography and production design is just sumptuous. The 1930s setting is richly used for both color and style, and this visual pastiche greatly enhances what could have otherwise been a more simplistic ghost story.
In all honesty, the movie really isn’t very scary (sorry, hardcore horror fans). But it is interesting and well-paced, as well as beautifully shot. And the twist of events at the end gives it a unique enough edge to rise above any obvious genre comparisons.
The excellent cinematography in the film is, for the most part, captured well on this Blu-ray. But the main complaint is that there is a fairly consistent tendency towards soft images. Perhaps it plays to the romantic undertones, but it keeps the high-definition experience from fully popping. Color, on the other hand is often strong. Although much of the film tracks in darker spaces, there is a winning visual palette at work here. The Blu-ray experience magnifies the cheapness to a couple of low-budget effects, but they are very seldom and pass painlessly.
Audiophiles will likely be disappointed (as is their lot in life) with the sound options. Both the 5.1 and 2.0 tracks are Doly Digital only. However, they are enjoyably strong for not being lossless. Dialogue is crisp, if not overly commanding, and sound effects deliver some able punch when called upon. The sound field is well explored, with some excellent use of surround effects, especially in the beginning of the film, and the music score is enjoyably presented. A true lossless track obviously would have been preferred, but what is included feels a notch above adequate.
The supplemental section for this release is a bit meagre, both in scope and substance. The main item is a suite of interviews (SD, 20:17), featuring the director, producer and actors. They vary in length, but most (with the exception of a couple, including a “candid”, by comparison, reflection from the producer) stick close to the generic talking points we’ve come to expect from promotional interviews. Of more interest is the behind-the-scenes footage that is shown in amongst each interview segment. There are also two trailers for the film (HD, 1:11 and 2:30) included.
The Matrimony is a nice bit of escapist cinema, melding a largely winning pair of thriller and romance genres. Although a bit mis-sold as “horror”, for those who have an eye either for Chinese cinama or more subdued supernatural fare, this is a solid choice.Powered by Sidelines