In 2035, our dreams are no longer our own–they’re infused with product placement and auditors assess unpaid taxes on our most private reveries. Beleaguered taxman James Preble (Kentucker Audley) arrives at a run-down house in the countryside for a routine audit and encounters Bella Isadora (Penny Fuller), a lifelong dreamer who remains resolutely analog, circumventing the surveillance state with VHS tapes and homemade headgear. As Preble works his way through Bella’s archive of the unconscious, he begins to fall in love with visions of her younger self (Grace Glowicki).
For in-depth thoughts on Strawberry Mansion, please see my colleague Jessica Gonzales’ review from its original theatrical release here.
For additional thoughts, please listen to our discussion on the Homedance Film Festival Podcast.
Strawberry Mansion comes to Blu-Ray in a 1080p presentation that is truly fetching. This is a visually inventive film with beautiful shots of nature and fantastical worlds throughout where you can see an incredible amount of detail. The film was shot digitally but given a 16mm pass to capture the gritty, hazy aesthetic they wanted to achieve which this transfer executes flawlessly. The grain is resolved well without anything seeming too swarmy or clumpy.
The film is replete with vivid colors throughout with numerous moments that impress from the lush nature to some of the heightened production design. The interiors are typically a more reserved environment that presents with more moderate tones that the presentation represents perfectly with a pleasing richness. The white levels are handled beautifully, along with the deep blacks that do not appear to suffer from any compression artifacts. The skin tones look very detailed and natural all around. The overall look of the film is soft and dreamlike, and this transfer represents it perfectly.
The Blu-Ray disc comes with both a DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 Master Audio track in the original English that conjures a very specific mood that transports you to this version of the future. One of the key aspects of the film is the moving Dan Deacon score that fills the room with a necessary grandeur. The sound design is just as precisely thought-out as the on screen visuals with all of the sounds positioned just right in the mix. The environmental effects create a really eclectic soundscape of nature and the noises of certain realities. The dialogue comes through clearly without ever being overpowered by the sound effects or the score. This is not an action-heavy film, but activity in the low end is moderate thanks to the music and certain altercations. This is a lovely sounding release that brings the movie to life in a really beautiful way. This disc offers optional English SDH subtitles.
- Audio Commentary: Directors Kentucker Audley and Albert Birney provide a really fun and informative commentary track in which they delve into the “deep cuts” that fans will appreciate. Every scene involves the pair digging into their inspiration and motivations behind different creative decisions, how they developed the rules for the world, the references and allusions they sprinkled throughout the feature, how they crafted different aspects of the production design and more. This adds so much to your appreciation of the film.
- Isolated Score Track: An option to watch the film only with Dan Deacon’s incredible score provided in DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio.
- Strawberry Beginnings – The Making Of Strawberry Mansion: A terrific 42-minute documentary in which Audley and Birney get together to discuss how the two met and began their creative partnership, the origins of the film, what each of them bring to their projects, shooting on location in Maryland, how they achieved certain shots and gave the film such a specific look, their feelings on the possibility of dreams, the casting of the feature, the music of Dan Deacon and so much more. There is a bit more creativity put into the construction of this piece when compared to your standard featurette. Don’t skip this!
- Deleted & Extended Scenes: Ten scenes of unused material totaling 33 minute is provided here including a look at Preble’s life in his apartment before the Strawberry Mansion, a longer exchange with Peter and his family, more time with the Blue Demon, a battle with a witch, an alternate ending and more.
- Test Footage & Animation: This segment provides 16 minutes of footage that led up to Strawberry Mansion which offers a fascinating insight into the creative process. The first Title Test has a fun assortment of names that make up the cast and crew which makes for a humorous alternate reality thought experiment.
- 2011 Title Test
- Early Test Footage
- Cap’n Kelly Chicken Menu
- VHS Tape Monster
- Bolex Witch and Tape Battle
- Island Test Footage
- Blue Demon Newscast
- Animation Behind The Scenes
- Dan Deacon Music Video: A two-and-a-half minute music video for the “Strawberry Mansion Theme” which uses some imagery from the film along with new footage.
- Short Films by Albert Birney:
- Cactus: A nearly 18-minute short film from 2004 which is hard to explain but is stylistically animated and features strawberries, worms, a guy who cannot read the signals of human decency, people with horse heads holding guns and more.
- The Fly Story: Not a short film per se, but a nearly four-minute explanation from Birney of the importance of a fly featured in Strawberry Mansion and the following short film.
- Buzzer: A nine-minute animated short film from 2018 which features a fly living in his apartment and observing the monotony of his day and living in his bug-filled city life.
- Watercolor & Collage Gallery: A collection of art pieces created by Birney to convey his vision of the film.
- Theatrical Trailer: A nearly two-minute trailer for the film is provided here.
- Collectible Trading Cards: Eight physical trading cards are provided here featuring characters from the film with descriptions about them on the back.
Strawberry Mansion is equal parts beautiful, joyful and heartbreaking. Filmmakers Kentucker Audley and Albert Birney craft a singular world that uses the magic of dreams to unlock the wonders of being alive. The way these two blend a striking, playful aesthetic with a deeply moving story makes you deeply invested in these two working together more in the future. The duo tackle many big ideas and themes within this tightly constructed narrative in a way that never feels overstuffed or messy. It is truly one of the gems of the year. Music Box Films Home Entertainment has given this lovely film a Blu-Ray release featuring a top-notch A/V presentation and a surprising amount of special features. Film fans who are excited by the prospect of using pure dream logic to explore the complexities of the human experience will delight in this one. Highly Recommended
Strawberry Mansion will be available to purchase on Blu-Ray and DVD on June 21, 2022. The film is currently available on Digital.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Music Box Films Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.