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  • We all know a movie never does complete justice to the book, but this is exceptional. Important characters were cut out, Blanca and Alba were essentially mushed into the same character, most of the subplots and major elements of the main plot were eliminated. Clara's clairvoyance was extremely downplayed, making her seem like a much more shallow character than the one I got to know in the book. In the book we learn more about her powers and the important effects she had on so many people, which in turn was a key element in the life of the family. In the movie she was no more than some special lady. The relationship between Esteban and Pedro Tercero (Tercero-third-, by the way, is the son and thus comes after Segundo-second-) and its connections to that between Esteban and his grandson from Pancha García (not son, who he also did recognize) is chopped in half and its importance downplayed.

    One of the most fundamental things about the book that the film is all but stripped of: this is called "The House of the Spirits." Where is the house? The story of 3-4 generations of a family is supposed to revolve around the "big house on the corner," a line stated so many times in the novel. The house in fundamental to the story, but the movie unjustly relegates it to a mere backdrop.

    If I hadn't read the book before, I would have never guessed that such a sappy, shallow movie could be based on such a rich and entertaining novel.
  • Everybody always told me this movie was good, but I never remembered to rent it. So when I bought a DVD, this one was given to me and I could watch it. And I was overwhelmed. Every single actor or actress never did better than they did in this movie. Jeremy Irons was almost perfect (I just think that there should be a little more Spanian accent there); Glenn Close seems to fit any character she's into and make it look real, in this case, painfully real; and what can I say about Meryl Streep? How can she look as angelical as this? The sweetness and calmness she spreads are just incredible, I can't see anyone else in this character. However, I believe Wynona Rider and Antonio Banderas' love could be more developed, both are terrific actors and deserved to have more chances to show it so, but they surely didn't disappoint us when they are on screen. A very beautiful, melancholic movie, with performances you'll never forget.
  • This is the story Esteban, a man who gain land and fortune through hard work. He only wishes for a loving family that have what he did not when he was a child. His conservative ways adds to that struggle and creates conflict with his family. This conflict grows when one of his low-class workers falls in love with his daughter. The military coup of 1973 to bring communism down in Chile is shown.

    This film represents what it is to live in Chile. I have never seen any film that tells the culture and the people of the southern South-America better. Most people makes the mistake to think that people in Chile and Argentina are not white. The whole cast represents EXACTLY what chileans look like and the difference between the higher and lower class. You can learn a lot from this film.

    This movie is 110% recommended. It may have some differences with the book but it is respectful to it. Excellent camera and direction work at a spectacular location.
  • I never expected the tears. I never expected the emotion. I was swept away by the epic story and came crashing to earth when the troops took over. All this despite the fact that I do and did know who Isabelle Allende is and I was aware of the history of coups in S. America. I loved the people with the notable and chilly brilliant exception from Jeremy Irons (Can we ever really love his incredible characters?)

    Another underrated movie that seeks much and delivers well although at times with a bit too much telegraphing (the bathing scene with the young Blanca for example.)

    It was a three hankie movie in the end, A great three hankie movie.
  • I've never been a fan of Bille August, and this film has only furthered my opinion of his work. I found the directing, as well as the editing, choppy and incoherent. Mr. August tried too hard to be mystical and discreet in his telling of the tale--to the point of being annoyingly aloof and superficial.

    The take-home message is, however, refreshing in its complexity and layers. The events all seem to come full circle and continue through the generations of the family, as Clara verbalized in her diaries, "the relationships between events." Lende's message was that evil begets evil, and nothing good came from malice. Such is sadly noted upon reflection that many misfortunes stemmed from poor judgment, and unacknowledged or unrectified wrongdoings in the past.

    I thought the characters Farula and Esteban were the best-written and the best-acted, by far. Glenn Close exuded every bit of the torn and love-deprived spinster sister, her very gaze a window to her harsh and barren life. Jeremy Irons' portrayal of the dark and contradictory Esteban was brazen yet vulnerable, between his political persona and love for his wife.
  • I just do not get very inspired in this treatment of Isabel Allende's novel. The worst thing is that I cannot even identify exactly what it is that does not succeed in really drawing me into the story. Evidently the film is well made, beautiful filming, and the cast is really extraordinary, with some magnificent interpretations. The make-up department did excellent work on the aging process of the players. This is the second time I have seen this film, but the story's continuity did not get me really sympathising with and feeling for the characters. There is something missing: however, no way can either Meryl Streep or Jeremy Irons, among the other leading actors, be blamed for this. There is something abstract here which I cannot explain. It may be arguable that this film is better than `Missing' (1982) (qv), however `Missing' pulled me much more into the story.

    Certainly, in no way should you pass up this film if you get a chance to see it: there are very good interpretations, at times even wondrous, combining with very intelligent photography and Hans Zimmer doing some of his best work.
  • This movie is based on the novel of the same title by Isabel Allende. It tells the story of the Trueba family over a span of 50 years. Jeremy Irons plays the passionate yet harsh patriarch of the family. He is a man of contradictions-in public and with his family, he is proper. Behind closed doors, he has many secrets-affairs, brothels, and a bastard son whom he utterly neglects. Time and fate make him confront these demons and he ultimately learns the blessing of forgiveness. Meryl Streep plays his psychically touched wife like an angel-she is so ethereal she seems of the spirit world. Glenn Close plays her love-starved sister-in-law;she conveys her desperation so adeptly. Meryl Streep treats her as a real sister and showers sisterly affection on this poor creature. It is a spellbinding tale and one that has relevance to all families.
  • mahoenders1 February 2007
    The book on which this movie was based is a wonderful, engaging story of the Trueba family, with a typical South American ambiance, in a way similar to the stories of another great author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The House of the spirits has all the ingredients for a entertaining, gripping and compelling motion picture. The movie however didn't quite live up to my expectations.

    What really bothered me was that the chronology of the movie didn't match the book. Clara for example lives through the revolution, while in the book she passes long before the civil war. The most annoying 'error' is that in the movie the storyline of Alba has been replaced by Blanca. I can't understand why it wouldn't have been possible to be true to the book in this feature. Maybe the director thought it necessary for Winona Ryder to play a larger role.

    Furthermore, there were little wonderful elements of the book which might have been added to the movie, without much trouble. A single shot of Barabas, Clara's dog, when she marries Esteban. The time when Esteban breaks almost every bone in his body, because of an earthquake. This would have added even more depth to the character, one of Jeremy Iron's finest acting jobs.

    I also thought it was a shame that the twins Clara also gave birth to, Jaime and Nicolas, were not included in the script. But because there story lines would have added substantially to the length of the picture and therefore would have made it too long for a regular movie, I understand why they are left out. That might also be the reason why Alba plays just a minor role, because her life is quite intertwined with that of her uncles.

    To conclude, movies based on a novel rarely give a satisfying image and for people who haven't read the book it will probably be quite entertaining. If you have read the book, however, it is hard to accept the choices made in the script and you end up feeling disappointed with the result.
  • The book was fabulous and remains one of my favorites. The movie, for some reason reminded me of "The Thorn Birds"--I guess because I felt so much was left out, and it would have been better as a mini-series.

    The book evokes a much more magical, mythical, and "Spirit"-ual feeling that reflects the special flavor of life in South America, especially with Clara having green hair, and more powers in the book. A lot of that feeling is left out of the movie.

    However, the movie mostly makes up for this lack in the extremely vivid presentation of the characters' emotions.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Before all, I'd like to point out that I have not read the book, so there was no chance I'd be disappointed in that aspect. The major flaw I spotted was historical detail, with several cars, trains, clothes, etc. I think don´t belong at that time.

    ***Possible spoiler*****

    The technical aspect of the film is ok, nothing to brag about. But the acting, I think, was terrific. I don't have no experience in acting, still I can't believe how people can consider this terrible! Maybe they've only seen two movies (ever), and the other one must have been very good indeed!

    I specially liked Jeremy Irons, and really understood his character, someone who crawled up the social ladder with very hard work, then fights against those who would take his life's work from him, only he gets so involved in this fight, he doesn't realize reason is no longer at his side, and he ends up a beaten, disappointed man. Irons made this so believable, I sympathized with the character despite his brutality.

    After Jeremy Irons, Winona Ryder is also wonderful as a romantic young women, who is drawn into the revolutionary ideals by her boyfriend (Banderas, he had an under-developed part, I think), and Glenn Close was also very good. Meryl Streep had an average performance, it was not bad, just not up to the standards of the other actors. Watch out for Miguel Guilherme, a fine Portuguese actor, between so many stars.

    In contrast to today's movies, here only the interpretations, only people matter, but at the same time, it is not a pretensious film, too worried trying to be intellectual. The best proof I really liked it, I'm writing a review 7 years later.
  • Isabel Allende's magical, lyrical novel about three generations of an aristocratic South American family was vandalized. The lumbering oaf of a movie that resulted--largely due to a magnificent cast of Anglo actors completely unable to carry off the evasive Latin mellifluousness of Allende's characters, and a plodding Scandinavian directorial hand--was so uncomfortable in its own skin that I returned to the theater a second time to make certain I had not missed something vital that might change my opinion. To my disappointment, I had not missed a thing. None among Meryl Streep, Jeremy Irons, Glenn Close and Vanessa Redgrave could wiggle free of the trap set for them by director Bille August. All of them looked perfectly stiff and resigned, as if, by putting forth as little effort as possible, they expected to fade unnoticed into lovely period sets. (Yes, the film was art directed within an inch of its life.) Curious that the production designer was permitted the gaffe of placing KFC products prominently in a scene that occurs circa 1970--years before KFC came into being. Back then, it was known by its original name: Kentucky Fried Chicken. Even pardoning that, what on earth is Kentucky Fried Chicken doing in a military dictatorship in South America in 1970? American fast food chains did not hit South America until the early 1980s. "The House of the Spirits" should have been the motion picture event of 1993. Because it was so club-footed and slavishly faithful to its vague idea of what the novel represented, Miramax had to market it as an art film. As a result, it was neither event nor art. And for that, Isabel Allende should have pressed charges for rape.
  • this film has spirit, hope and courage. a love story spanning three generations, dealing with mystic experiences, cruel ambition and selfless devotion. wonderfully moving performances by entire cast. irons plays a powerful fool who's lost his humanity, but not his desire to love. streep is wonderful as a woman who is a bridge between life and spirit. close is moving as a woman who denied her own desires tending first her mother, then her brother. rider blossoms with courage and passion for banderas who is fine as revolutionist. do not attempt to watch this film--feel it, experience it, open your heart to it's romantic and passionate tale. allow it charm you and take you back to timeless story telling of hope and disappointment and cruel injustice and forgiveness. it's clear that this piece is a collective gift of love from all involved to all whom are willing to be transported to romance, to spiritual connections, to love strong enough to reach beyond death.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    There was the potential here for a triumphant, epic, sweeping tribute to Allende's classic magic realist dynastic drama. As I sat watching it, I most found myself wondering just what the heck happened. It's a misfire so total that aside from the lush production values, it could almost bring Ed Wood to mind.

    I don't think I've ever seen this much high-powered acting talent go to waste as conspicuously as in this movie. Close, Streep, Irons, Banderas, Ryder, Alonso, Muller-Stahl... the cast is a who's who of performers who should never, ever look this stilted or be asked to recite dialogue this lifeless. For the love of God, even Gallo is better than this material. Just tragic.

    It does look nice, I'll give it that much.
  • When I found out there was a movie that had both my favorite actresses Meryl Streep and Wynona Ryder, I went through the roof!But I had a hard fall after watching this lame movie and I still have the bruise.First of all the character that Jeremy Irons (an actor I still admire even after this disappointment)plays was just awful. He treated his family like crap, especially his sister, played by Glenn Close. I could not get close or sympathize with any of the characters and I'm no prude, but the sex scenes were really unnecessary or they could have been toned down. Wynona and Antonio's characters could have been developed a lot more and their romance could have been much more passionate. And what was with Meryl's character and her "mystical powers"? Why didn't they go into this more? This film had a lot of dead ends and the bottom line is that this is a really lousy movie and there was a lot of wasted talent here.
  • I only began to watch this movie because it was on Encore network, and I usually like movies with Streep and/or Irons. It kept me interested the whole 2 hours.

    The movie covers 3 generations and about 60 years. It is set in South America. The father (Irons) achieves his wealth, social, and political status through hard work. He is a difficult man, and when his young daughter (Winona Ryder) befriends a young peasant boy, she is sent to school away. The mother (Streep) seems to have some connection with the supernatural.

    Eventually a progressive party wins the election, and the old conservative party gets the military to oust the new government. Civil war almost breaks out, people are mistreated, and old relationships must be re-examined.

    A good study in character and family relationships, moves a bit slow at times, but represents leisure story-telling. A good movie, I give it "7" of "10". I believe it was loosely based on some historical events.
  • clynn059 September 2015
    This was a silly movie - the mother had to be at least 10 years younger than the father, and yet they had her age so much quicker and die first ??

    The main character was a horrible man - and yet the mother says to the daughter, about the father, 'it isn't malice'... What !? He is nothing but malicious. The character was never shown to do one good thing.

    There is no romanticism here... masochism maybe... He was a horrible man and I could see no reason why Clara would have loved him.

    There was no point to this movie, unless it is to encourage women to punish themselves by loving evil men.

    Watching this was a big waste of my time.
  • The first time I saw THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS, I had a similar reaction to what most critics seemed to have. I felt the movie was bad, but couldn't say why exactly. It's hard to find fault in a movie with such an esteemed cast, such great sets and cinematography, etc. I knew it was based on a famous novel, so I figured the problem must have been in the adaptation.

    Upon reading the novel and then going back to the film, I realized something interesting: the film starts out as a faithful adaptation before losing its way, but the biggest issue is the tone.

    The novel's style of magical realism is, right from the start, difficult to adapt to film. There's green hair, there's magic remedies, and there's a very darkly humorous tone. The film on the other hand is very bleak and brooding, with only some slight supernatural element, which is kind of shrugged off. Roger Ebert, who always has a perfect way of articulating the best criticism, worded it best: "Magic realism, which informs so many South American stories, is treated here as a slightly embarrassing social gaffe, like passing wind. Clara's gifts are not made integral to the story; the filmmakers see them more as ornamentation." For example, in the book, Severo and Nivea die in a car accident and Clara keeps her mother's decapitated head in the basement. Years later, when Clara dies, Esteban tells his servants "Well, we might as well bury my mother-in-law's head now." Moments like that are missing, and instead we just have a scene of Severo and Nivea in a random car accident in the film, and are then never mentioned again. Why even bother having the car accident at all? And why waste Vanessa Redgrave in such a small role?

    Now this leads into another issue: the most infamous criticism of this film is that it stars a bunch of "gringos" (Jeremy Irons, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, and Winona Ryder) as Chilean characters. At first glance, you might think this is a shallow thing to criticize: actors play characters of different ethnic backgrounds all the time, nor is there any one way that a Chilean person should "look." But I think this criticism is actually a misdiagnosis of a bigger problem. The problem isn't that these actors are all Anglo; it's the fact that they play their characters in a very Anglicized way for an Anglo audience. They mispronounce names like Tres Marias ("Trays Muh-ree-ahs") and Esteban ("Estuh-baan") and say them all as if these names are foreign to them. Irons, who is British, sounds American while Close, who is American, sounds British. Winona Ryder's character is presented as an all-American girl. There's even a scene towards the end, while Blanca is being tortured and Alba waits for her at home, where Alba is eating out a Kentucky Fried Chicken box in the 1970's! (KFC didn't start opening stores in Chile until 1992. Yes, I actually looked it up out of curiosity). Now you might say "Who cares if they show a KFC box? That's nitpicking." It might not seem important, but on a subtextual level, it's significant. The filmmakers are trying to dilute the Hispanism of the story and create the mindset that this could easily be happening in the US. All of this adds a feeling of displacement to the movie. Because it loses its Chilean and Latino identity, the politics lose their context. What is the coup at the end all about? Why does it happen? What happened to the workers at Tres Marias? Why was Pedro III an enemy of the military's?

    When you take this story, remove its Hispanic context and magic realism, what you're left with is just a domestic drama, which is less interesting than its book counterpart when it is simplified. The adaptation's biggest change is the removal of an entire generation and combining Blanca and Alba into one character. This completely changes the third act and it now makes no sense for Esteban to help Pedro III escape. In the book, Esteban joins forces with Miguel as they both care about saving Alba. In the film's version, joining forces with Pedro III will in no way have any affect on saving Blanca. The impact of Esteban's relationship with Alba is also lost as she is reduced to only a small child in the film and not given much character. In the book, Esteban has affairs with multiple women at Tres Marias and fathers many children, which everyone is aware of. In the film, he just randomly commits violent rape one day in a very abrupt scene, and then completely forgets about it until a son shows up one day. Because of the removal of an entire generation, Esteban III in the book is Esteban II in the film, and his character is given the Hollywood archetypes of a perverse and disturbed villain rather than as the symbol of lineage of violence he was in the book. In addition to this you have the removal of Blanca's brothers from the book and a climax that doesn't play very dramatically, and the resulting story is very fractured and loses the epic 3-generation sweep of the novel.

    I am left wondering if any film could have been made of this book, which has so many characters and spans many different episodes. Regardless, this film, and its serious tone, do not suit the book at all, and just leaves audiences wondering what the story they just saw was all about.
  • The House of the Spirits is a gripping tale of family intrigue, South American politics and super-natural powers. Meryl Streep, Glenn Close and Jeremy Irons bring Isabel Allende's novel to life with all its passion and suspense. This, in my view, is one of the best films of the 1990s. Jeremy Irons as Esteban Trueba ages and mellows very believably, while Meryl Streep in the role of Clara maintains her gentle, loving warmth throughout her relatively short life. Winona Ryder and Antonio Banderas make a handsome couple struggling for family acceptance in a racist culture. Glenn Close, as Esteban's sister, gives a very moving performance. The countryside of Portugal is a reasonable substitute for a non-tropical Latin American country. Settings of Clara's home and Esteban's ranch are effective and the period US cars add nicely to the post-war atmosphere.
  • Although the story is fictional, it draws from the reality of not only the history of latin american countries but all the third world. This is the true, pure and raw recent history of these countries summarized concisely in this novel / film. The offbeat supranatural stuff, lightens up the intensity of historical events presented in this movie. After all the supranatural stuff is a part of the culture in the third world. Although is not critically acclaimed (probably because of the supranatural stuff), This is an excellent movie, with a great story and great acting.
  • jfarms19569 April 2013
    The House Of The Spirits would be be for the 18 crowd. I found this movie to be a tedious and rather pointless movie. To me, I saw little purpose in this movie. There are many actors and actresses which I love to see are in this movie. Stars such as Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Winona Ryder, Vanessa Redgrave and Antonio Banderas are in this flick. The House Of Spirits is a long movie. I believe that 20 minutes could have been edited out. Yes, The House of the Spirits movie does give one insight as to how people in Chile live. I was disappointed to have so many of my favorite stars in a pointless film. This is definitely a movie to have on TV and play cards to or have another activity going on. If you don't have anything else to do but relax, watch it. I give The House Of the Spirits three thumbs up.
  • katseattle1 December 2004
    I'm glad I rented this movie for one reason: its shortcomings made me want to read Allende's book and get the full story.

    Pros: the movie is beautiful, the period is depicted well and consistently (to the best of my knowledge), and Meryl and Glenn do good jobs.

    Cons: This is the worst acting job I've ever seen from Jeremy Irons--I kept wondering if something was wrong with his mouth. (And I hate the terribly English way he says "Transito.") Winona Ryder does nothing believable except look young and idealistic. Most of the other performances are OK, but so few things hang together in the character arcs and the relationship development that I was frustrated and angry well before the end.

    I'm very curious now whether this movie is typical of Bille August's work. I may have to drop another couple of bucks to rent Smilla's Sense of Snow.
  • nlkleve24 July 2015
    Warning: Spoilers
    Of course the head of the household dynasty is conservative and controlling. Of course his wife is his only "humanizing" influence on him. Of course his daughter falls in love with the one man who threatens him most. Of course he catches the man and whips him. Of course this whole family is almost completely torn apart by this "patron's" single-minded authoritarianism. Of course his wife has psychic powers... uh, wait! What? So what's the point of the hocus pocus? Of course! It is so that the movie (and book I assume) can have "spirituality". As if we need that.

    I was never once interested in any of the cardboard characters who were moved around like chess pieces in this movie in order to further the long-winded plot.
  • I thought the plot of the film was rushed. It attempted to fit into less than 2 hours what the novel does in several hundred pages. As a result, the viewer is left with a complete yet shallow story. This is one of those rare cases where the movie should have been much longer. A longer film would have allowed more of the details to be filled in. To put it simply, the film is a kind of "Cliff Notes" version of the novel. Nevertheless, it does tell an interesting story and the acting is very good (Glen Close in particular).
  • "The house of the spirits" is quite awful. I live in South America, in a country that suffered a military dictatorship just like the one the movie tries to describe, and even though everyone knows movies may be far far away from reality, this particular movie treats viewers as both ignorant and stupid. Things are not so simple and linear as appears here, and of course political process are much more complicated and interesting that the plot in "The house...". If you can't show that complexity on screen is better not making a movie at all. There are a lot of examples of how can politics be seriously taken in cinema, without so many commonplaces. In some parts I felt that Carmen Miranda may appear within parrots and palm trees. When you talk about certain things you must be not only careful but respectful to your public's intelligence.
  • Brilliant adaptation of the novel that made famous the relatives of Chilean President Salvador Allende killed. In the environment of a large estate that arises from the ruins, becoming a force to abuse and exploitation of outrage, a luxury estate for the benefit of the upstart Esteban Trueba and his undeserved family, the brilliant Danish director Bille August recreates, in micro, which at the time would be the process leading to the greatest infamy of his story to the hardened Chilean nation, and whose main character would Augusto Pinochet (Stephen similarities with it are inevitable: recall, as an example, that image of the senator with dark glasses that makes him the wink to the general to begin making the palace).

    Bille August attends an exceptional cast in the Jeremy protruding Irons, whose character changes from arrogance and extreme cruelty, the hard lesson that life always brings us to almost force us to change. In Esteban fully applies the law of resonance, with great wisdom, Solomon describes in these words:"The things that freckles are the same punishment that will serve you."

    Unforgettable Glenn Close playing splint, the tainted sister of Stephen, whose sin, driven by loneliness, spiritual and platonic love was the wife of his cruel snowy brother. Meryl Streep also brilliant, a woman whose name came to him like a glove Clara. With telekinetic powers, cognitive and mediumistic, this hardened woman, loyal to his blunt, conservative husband, is an indicator of character and self-control that we wish for ourselves and for all human beings.

    Every character is a portrait of virtuosity (as Blanca worthy rebel leader Pedro Segundo unhappy ...) or a portrait of humiliation, like Stephen Jr., the bastard child of Senator, who serves as an instrument for the return of the boomerang.

    The film moves the bowels, we recreated some facts that should not ever be repeated, but that absurdly still happen (Colombia is a sad example) and another reminder that, against all, life is wonderful because there are always people like Isabel Allende and immortalize just Bille August.
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