The Blu-ray Disc
People on Sunday is presented in 1080i high definition with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1. This marks the first time Criterion has opted for an interlaced high definition transfer, and the decision seems to stem from the film’s frame rate of 22 frames per second, which is optimally presented in 1080i. Whatever the case, viewers are going to have a hard time finding a reason to complain about this transfer, which is just fantastic. The film’s original print was lost (and the surviving 73-minute cut is missing about eight minutes) and what is presented here had to be assembled from more than five different sources of varying quality. You’d never know it, as the transfer is strikingly consistent with superb sharpness and clarity in nearly every shot. Many of the close-ups are astonishing in their fine detail and clarity. Grayscale separation is excellent, with inky blacks and bright whites on both ends of the spectrum. There’s some print damage, but it’s mostly relegated to speckling and a few scratches here and there. The restoration of the film is quite remarkable, and its transfer here is just about perfect.
Audio options include a silent-era-style score by the Mont Alto Orchestra recorded this year and a 2000 track from the Czech Film Orchestra that takes a more modern approach. Both are presented in lossless stereo tracks.
A 30-minute documentary about the making of the film, directed by Gerald Koll in 2000, is an information-packed and highly engaging roundup of the film’s production history and the eventual fates of its cast and crew. Interviews with star Brigitte Borchert, writer Curt Siodmak and film restoration supervisor Martin Koerber are included in the piece.
Also on the disc is Ins Blaue hinein, a 36-minute short film directed by cinematographer Eugen Schüfftan, who, it should be noted, also designed the stunning special effects in Metropolis. The film features a similarly simple narrative and visual style to People on Sunday, but it’s a sound film rather than a silent.
Also included in the package is a booklet with an essay by scholar Noah Isenberg and reprints from Billy Wilder and Robert Siodmak, who recall the production history in different ways.
The Bottom Line
People on Sunday certainly sounds interesting from an academic standpoint, but it’s also a totally enchanting film experience — a quality that will likely catch a number of viewers by surprise.