A Lesson Before Dying

A Lesson Before Dying (1999)
HBO Home Video
Cast: Don Cheadle, Cicely Tyson, Mekhi Phifer
Extras: Cast and crew biographies

“A Lesson Before Dying” is a powerful movie placed in the 1940’s south, where an African-American is wrongfully accused of killing a white store owner. Grant Wiggins, a local teacher, has become disillusioned by the racial injustice in the southern states and the inhuman indignity the black people have to suffer. He is approached by the prisoner’s family when the convict has lost all hope and feels treated like an animal, to enrich a life he cannot save. He visits him every day to teach him valuable lessons and most importantly his own value as a human being.

HBO Home Video has released this remarkable movie in a fullframe presentation. I was unable to determine the movie’s original aspect ratio, but since it was a television production and since the picture never appears cropped, I assume it has been photographed for a fullframe presentation. Without any compression artifacts, the movie is literally blossoming on this DVD. Taken from a clean print without notable speckles or dust, the film on this DVD looks absolutely gorgeous. Powerful colors, deep, solid shadows and balanced highlights make it s great experience. Even the nighttime scenes or the dimly lit interior shots cause any compression artifacts and always maintain a very high level of detail.

The disc contains audio tracks in English and Spanish in a 2-channel Dolby Digital presentation. Dialogues are well integrated and never appear drowned out by the music or the sound effects. The frequency response is wide with a good and neutral sounding low end, as well as brilliant high ends. “A Lesson Before Dying” has a great score by Ernest Troost that always hits the right note for the scenes, greatly enhancing the overall experience.

“A Lesson Before Dying” is a movie that is sad and thoughtful, but never melodramatic. It is moving and though provoking and very beautiful. With this great DVD at hand, you should definitely give this movie a look. You will be enchanted and utterly compelled by its beauty, power and intelligence.