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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.

6 Responses to “Movie of the Week: The House of the Spirits”

I didn’t like the movie very much because of its overflowing sentimentality which kind of let the final part (Chilean coup d’etât) seem more like the climax of some odd love fairy-tale than as a part of HISTORY. There are also many details in the film untrue to history, not so much to the book which is a bit fairy-tale like itself (though better and more coherent than the movie). Meryl Streep did well concerning intuition and craft, but somehow her character seemed TOO ethereal and therefore lacking strength…whereas Glenn Close, in this case, overshadowed the entire fellow cast with her fiercy performance as the sister.

Feb 01, 12 at 9:52 pm

The only movie Streep was in that I did not like it or her performance.

Feb 02, 12 at 12:23 am
Juan Jose

This is not one of my favorites of meryl, but it was just fine. even so i love Meryl, my heart belongs to Glenn Close, and in this movie Glenn was great!

Feb 02, 12 at 12:33 am

I absolutely Love this movie!! It’s one of my favorites! I see alot of my self in Clara.. (Of course, I can only wish to be as kind and nice as her) But I really Love her! And Meryl in a movie about spirituality, made me sooo happy, as a young girl!

Thank you!

Feb 02, 12 at 4:34 pm

If a may say so, Manuel makes a great point, I´m chilean, those times were real and when I say real I meant it, I wasn´t born yet because my parents waited 1 to have me, precisly for that reason, they didn´t want to have their first child during that mess troble, really really measy, the story that appears in the movie is too rough, there is some true in it, but the history is some how different in bad and Manuel though I love the ethereal part that Meryl play it may be in contradiction with the story

Feb 02, 12 at 5:38 pm

I absolutely adore this movie due to its spirituality and the vision that it gives of the world (through women’s eyes), it’s another perspective of history. Meryl was touchingly inspiring and at the same time nostalgic and inspired herself. Like her character, Clara, she had a clarity and an enlightenment when performing. Well done:)

Feb 02, 12 at 9:12 pm


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