Snow Queen

Snow Queen (2002)
Artisan Entertainment
Cast: Bridget Fonda
Extras: Featurette, Photo Gallery, Trailer Gallery

I am always excited when another Hallmark TV mini-series makes it to DVD through Artisan. The production values of these series are typically very high and they oftentimes venture into the realms of fantasy or legends. "Snow Queen" is no different. It is a new retelling of the infamous fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm that we all grew up with, and Artisan Home Entertainment has turned it into a solid DVD release.

After her mother’s death in a winter storm, Gerda (Chelsea Hobbs) is changed girl. Together with her father (Robert Wisden) she is running the White Bear hotel in a remote village somewhere in Europe’s north, but neither of them can find true happiness in their existence after the tragic loss. Then Kai (Jeremy Guilbaut) begins working at the hotel as the bellboy and with him he brings a breath of life, a lively spirit that had been lost for so long. Despite the frosty winter around, Kai manages to melt people’s hearts and Gerda falls in love with him. But suddenly there is a strange change in Kai, and the next day a mysterious guest arrives at the hotel. All wrapped in fur and diamonds, it is the Snow Queen (Bridget Fonda) and by daybreak she has vanished, taking Kai with her. Knowing that Kai was taken against his will, Gerda sets out on a colorful and mythical journey to find the Snow Queen’s palace and bring Kai back.

"Snow Queen" is a beautiful film that has a lot of character and atmosphere. The location is wonderfully picked, really taking you to a remote place somewhere in the northern reaches of Europe and once Gerda’s journey begins, the backdrops become increasingly colorful and flamboyant. It is hardly surprising, as director David Wu is a long-time collaborator of acclaimed Hong Kong director Ronny Yu for whom he served as an editor. But he’s also an accomplished actor in Hong Kong cinema and the visual, poetic qualities of these films clearly show in "Snow Queen."
The film is also acted very naturally without any weak parts. Whether it is Kai, Gerda or the Snow Queen, the players all have a very professional level and sway viewers with their natural delivery of the characters. Especially Bridget Fonda’s performance is utterly convincing as she sways from sweet temptress to ice-cold, evil antagonist within the blink of an eye. The supporting cast is equally well picked to make sure the illusion holds up throughout the film’s 3-hour running length.

Artisan Home Entertainment is presenting "Snow Queen" in an <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> presentation on this disc in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio that reflects the production’s high-definition scope. The print is entirely devoid of speckles, rendering an image that is free of blemishes and filled with a high level of detail. To bring the fantastic story to life, the colors are rich and all hues are beautifully rendered, from the coldest, iciest blues to the warmest palette tones found also in the film. Colors are always balanced and never oversaturated. Black levels are generally solid, creating deep shadows, free of pixel break-up. There is occasional edge-enhancement visible in some of the high contrast scenes but it is never distracting and the compression of the material has been handled quite well without introducing compression artifacts.

"Snow Queen" comes with a full <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> audio track on this release, greatly improving on the audio presentation that we got to experience during the mini-series television broadcast in December 2002. The mix is dynamic and rich making good use of the surround channels and especially when the Snow Queen raises the winds and we hear the icy chimes from all directions, we get to appreciate the glory of DVD for such productions once again. The track has a wide frequency response and ensure proper reproduction of the low ends as well as the high ends of the sonic spectrum without problems or distortion. The dynamic range of the audio is also very good reproducing the quiet, ambient moments as nicely as the more dynamic, heavily syncopated scenes. Dialogues are well-integrated and never drowned out even if they fall below a whisper.

Artisan has included a "Making Of" featurette on this DVD that gives you a glimpse at the production of the film, as well as a photo gallery and trailer gallery.

Once again, Artisan delivers a great DVD version of a remarkable Hallmark mini-series. It combines the best of the Grimm fairy tale with beautiful cinematography and a compelling script. This DVD is a winner, no doubt.