The topic for this documentary are the Shakers, more properly the “United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing.” The Shakers weren’t around that long: they were celibate, which meant no offspring. However, as the film explores, that didn’t stop them from having a profound impact on American life (they were, for instance, feminist and anti-slavery well ahead of the game).
A mono soundtrack. Though it might have been nice to hear the Shaker songs in stereo, the sound is still very clean, and without distortion. As with The Congress (another recent release in the series), the idea here is to convey information and ideas, not jolt us out of our seats, so the absence of stereo is not a huge deal.
The picture is fullscreen (naturally), but the picture quality is not as good as that of The Congress. Many of the exterior shots are distractingly grainy, detracting from otherwise lovely composition and soft, misty colours. In other respects, the picture isn’t bad, depending again on the state of the source material.
The extras are identical to those on the other discs in the Ken Burns’ America series: a brief featurette on the how Burns goes about making his documentaries (nice stuff on how he listens toa photograph, determining what sound effects should accompany the picture in the finished documentary), and a longer interview with him, where he expounds on the hows and whys of his approach. The menu is basic.
This is certainly not a topic about which I have given much thought, but Burns, as ever,makes the subject fascinating.