MARTHA blu-ray review

Denmark Region B blu-ray

1080p Widescreen 1.66:1

Danish: DTS-HD 2.0, Dolby Digital 2.0

Subtitles: English, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian








Depressing, gloomy, serious, dark, and disturbing are the usual words that cross my mind when I think of movies from Denmark. Thanks to filmmakers such as Lars Von Trier (The Kingdom, The Idiots), Nicolas Winding Refn (Valhalla Rising, Pusher), Susanne Bier (In a Better World, Brothers), and Christoffer Boe (Reconstruction, Allegro), I have had this stereotype about Danish films for many years now. Even my memories of Babette’s Feast – the first Danish movie that I saw when I was eleven years old – remind me more of repulsive and dismal scenes rather than scenes of delicious-looking food.

There has to be some uplifting Danish films that have existed over the years, but for now, I was fortunate to find Erik Balling’s Martha – a 45-year old film that is the most cheerful and funny Danish film that I have ever seen.

Martha is considered to be one of Denmark’s most popular cult-comedy films, especially popular among Danish sailors.  The movie is about a very old freight steamer named “Martha” that is practically falling apart and barely floating on water. Forgotten by the Danish shipping companies and laughed at by competing Norwegian ships, the lazy crew takes advantage of their ship’s weakness. They sit around all day drinking alcohol, spend most of their budget on extravagant fancy meals on board, make stops on shore to drink and party at local pubs, and even try to hook up the youngest crew member with a prostitute. Old habits change when the ship’s strict owner, his wife, and their beautiful daughter surprise the crew with intentions of spending some time on board.

I was skeptical about being entertained by a bunch of drunk slobs for 93 minutes, but the characters in Martha are so funny and entertaining, I was hooked immediately. I was also skeptical that the movie wouldn’t be funny for non-Danes, but I was also wrong since Martha is an example of a perfect old school European comedy that anyone can enjoy, and the characters and storyline are universally understood. The cinematography is also wonderful – with great shots of the sea, the ship, and port towns. The whole movie felt like it was filmed out at sea. I don’t know if they filmed any scenes on a set because even the indoor shots felt like they were at sea. Martha’s impressive direction by Erik Balling makes me want to seek out more movies from this director.

The Danish Region B Blu-ray from Nordisk Film Distribution is nearly reference quality for a film from 1967. Martha was my first Danish Blu-ray so I really didn’t know what to expect, but after viewing this Blu-ray, I reminded myself that Scandinavia is, after all, known for producing quality products! I’m happy to report that this cult-comedy classic has received full respect regarding the Blu-ray video and audio quality. The 1080p 1.66:1 image looks amazing! With a slight touch of grain, the print is spotlessly clean and its sun-baked scenes of the ship out to sea excel with an impressive level of crisp detail. Color saturation and blacks look great too. The Danish DTS-HD 2.0 sounds as wonderful as this type of mix can sound. Dialogue is absolutely clear and the realistic ship sounds and catchy music never overwhelm the dialogue. Even with a front-heavy 2.0 mix, the audio still felt immersive and I felt like a passenger on the ship. The English subtitles were perfectly translated and a Danish DD 2.0 audio choice, as well as Danish, Swedish, Finnish and Norwegian subtitles are also included. No extras are on this Blu-ray.

Martha is a great Danish comedy and makes one want to go sailing on any kind of ship – a cruise ship or even a beat-up rusty one. Even though this film would make a nice double feature with The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Martha feels so much more special than Wes Anderson’s film. Released on an impressive quality Blu-ray, I highly recommend you all to check out Denmark’s Martha!

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