Rated: R for nudity, sexual content and violence. Reviewed by: Chris Release date: April 1, 1994 Released by: Miramax
Given this wonderful cast, it's a wasteful shame that the outcome isn't more entertaining.
Set in a South American country in the 1020s, it follows a family for three generations. Jeremy Irons plays Esteban Treuba a young miner who works hard to impress the wealthy family of his bride-to-be. When she's murdered by her father's enemies, Esteban leaves to make his fortune at a country estate.
After he's a success, he returns to marry Clara, the clairvoyant younger sister (Meryl Streep) of his dead fiancee. He brings her back to his home along with his dour sister, played by Glenn Close.
Esteban, over the years, has become an unrelenting taskmaster to the poor peasants who work his land. He also is more enmeshed in conservative politics and more tyrannical with his workers, who are stirred up by a young revolutionary (Antonio Banderas), who also happens to be his daughter Blanca's (Winona Ryder) secret lover.
During this slow moving, deliberate film, a lot of different story lines add to the confusion. Esteban suspects that his sister has a lesbian attachment to his wife, when she only craves the affection that was lacking in her own home, Esteban has an illegitimate son who shows up periodically to ask for money or frighten his half sister Blanca, Clara has visions of forthcoming doom and Blanca defies her father by continuing her affair with her father's enemy. No wonder Irons ages more quickly than anyone else in the cast. In fact, both the ages and time frames are out of whack. Esteban's illegitimate son remains about the same age, while Blanca ages from about 8 years old to an adult with a child of her own, and Streep, who's about the same age as Irons, is supposed to be at least 20 years younger than he. Also, the accents go from either nondescript to nonexistent.
If I had to find one element that I enjoyed about this film, it would be Iron's performance. He is an impressive talent, who can evoke strong emotions out of any character he portrays.
House of the Spirits would have made an interesting political movie about the conservatives losing power, but the added story lines took the spirit right out of it.
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