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  February 1st, 2012       Posted by Frederik       Display Comments

The movie of the week has not been forgotten, just a bit delayed due to the SAG Awards. This week we cover “The House of the Spirits”, Bille August’s 1993 adaptation of Isabel Allende’s bestselling novel. The film has been a misfire in the USA but quite successful in Europe – yet, it’s not often mentioned in Meryl’s resume. The galleries have been updated with additional stills, promotional pictures and quality screencaptures. The video archive now features better quality versions of the trailers, the making of and three clips from the film. Did you like “The House of the Spirits”? Share your thoughts! P.S. Three clips from “Heartburn” have been added as well, somehow they went missing when it was Movie of the Week ;-)

Production Notes

Based on Isabel Allende’s bestselling book “La casa de los espíritus”, the story details the life of the Trueba family, spanning four generations, and tracing the post-colonial social and political upheavals of the Latin American country they live in. The story is told mainly from the perspective of two protagonists (Esteban and Alba – who’s Blanca’s daughter and plays only a minor role in the film) and incorporates elements of magic realism. The book was first conceived by Isabel Allende when she received news that her one hundred year-old grandfather was dying, and she began to write him a letter that ultimately became the starting manuscript of “The House of the Spirits”. The rights were bought by German producer Bernd Eichinger who helmed the international production of the movie adaptation with the German Neue Constantin Film, under the direction of Danish Bille August. Jeremy Irons was the first actor on board, and with his help Meryl Streep and Glenn Close, two of his former co-stars, joined the family saga. While the film won some minor awards, mostly in Germany (Bavarian Film Awards, German Film Awards, Golden Screen), it was viewed as a critical failure (two oft-cited reasons were its diffusely episodic structure and a cast of mostly Anglo American actors in Latin American roles) and a box office bomb (it made back only $6.2 million of its $40 million budget).

Frederik’s Review

“The House of the Spirits” is one of Meryl’s lesser successful films, and I could never quite understand why. My admiration for the film possibly comes from the fact that I haven’t read the book. Many film adaptations of novels fail because they change structure, shorten storylines or change characters. And reading summaries and reviews from those who have read the book, “The House of the Spirits” makes no difference. Another reason for its critical failure was probably the casting of well known American, British and German actors in a story that centers on a Chilean family – and none of them look really Chilean. Still, judging it as a film by itself, it’s passionate storytelling of a family saga over the course of a lifetime. The film’s anchor is Meryl Streep’s Clara, who is less convincing as a young woman here but otherwise wonderful, especially in her scenes with Glenn Close. The other acting is admirable as well, Winona Ryder gives a commanding performance as Blanca and Jeremy Irons is a force of nature. I’d recommend “The House of the Spirits” to anyone who’s interested in complex stories and epic family history. And it’s probably a plus not to have read the book.