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Angels & Insects
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Customer Reviews:

  • PHILOSOPHICAL, SCIENTIFIC AND GREAT DRAMA
    It is, without a doubt, one of the most intriguing films I've ever had the pleasure of watching. This is one of those rare productions where the elements that make it work, are all of superb quality. The actors are incredibly talented and do give truly magnificent performances. The photography and costumes are breathtaking. And of course the story is absolutely clever.

    The title is both the question and the answer. Who are the angels and who are the insects? When you reach the end of the film you'll know. It is a study of morality vs. perversity.

    In her role as governess, Kristin Scott-Thomas exudes intelligence making her beautiful beyond words. Her uncommon intellect sets her apart from the rest of the "beauties" around her. My fascination with her character has to do with exactly that. The question of what `makes' a woman is exactly the same as `what' makes a man. It has to do with a whole lot more than just gender. Beauty alone does not make a woman, just like strength alone does not make a man; neither do social status, money, power, pedigree, or even education. The film tears down the myth that a woman must accept being relegated to conversations about ribbons and bows and meaningless, tedious gossip. And yet, if you look closely at the Victorian age, you'll find that men in general treated women as nothing more than just pretty things to adorn their manly selves with. I wonder if this theme is what was hinted at in the scene by the lake with all the ladies in their beautifully colored dresses. They're reminiscent of butterflies in a field.

    I loved the film because of its scientific content too. There is a scene during a meal where the conversation turns to horses. Mr. Ryland's character begins to talk about how science has determined that all modern horses come from the same ancestral line, only to be interrupted by his employer's son. His claim is that a workhorse has nothing in common with the finer pedigrees. Then his father interrupts him to say "THINK before you speak."

    This is definitely one of the finest productions on film today!...more info

  • Abstract Ideas Always Better Than Reality
    Mark Rylance, a naturalist in the Darwinian/Victorian sense returns to England after losing his life's work in a shipwreck. While visiting the estate of an educated wealthy sympathizer, he falls in love with the patriarchs daughter, Eugenia (Patsy Kensit). Eugenia agrees to marry him and continue to live on the family estate. Because the naturalist has no visible means of support or noble lineage, he is despised and mistreated by Eugenia's brother. Apparent to everyone is the fact that the naturalist should have married a poor though educated and intelligent cousin of Eugenia played by Kristin Scott Thomas.

    The most interesting thing about this movie is the way the naturalists abstract ideas seep into his real life. Darwin talked about the evolution of species and how the strong survive. But does the evolution of a master race mean you should procreate with your sister? Darwin postulated that the best looking of a species will procreate because they can aptly a mate. But the reality is that the best looking person may not be the one to love. People are complex creatures and what we need in love goes far beyond what our biology dictates.

    A very good movie with excellent performances. [...]...more info
  • Unflinching and colorful --in more ways than one
    Sometimes, the costumes and scenery almost threaten to overwhelm the story. However, the actors and the plot prevent this. In sometimes graphic detail, the Victorian society is turned inside-out to show what lies just beneath the surface, waiting to be discovered in all of its shame....more info
  • Truly a case of too little too late...
    I had really high expectations for this film walking in. I love period pieces and I love the idea of the erotic love story; and even the whole fascination with the study of insect life mirroring the relationships of the human counterparts seemed really intriguing to me.

    What can I say; I love the bizarre.

    The problem I have with this film is that it takes so long to actually grab your interest that it's over before we have a chance to really appreciate all that it has to say. The final thirty minutes is shockingly good; stellar to be exact, but getting there is rather difficult when the film fails time and time again to be even remotely interesting.

    The film tells the tale of William Adamson, a naturalist who returns home after an expedition fully reliant on the financial help of his sponsor, the wealthy Sir Harold Alabaster. Sir Harold is smitten with William, who possesses and intelligence he only wishes his own son Edgar would possess. When William falls for the emotionally damaged Eugenia, Harold is happy, but Edgar is furious. William and Eugenia are married, and despite their social differences they seem to be happy; having child upon child, but it is obvious that they are not as connected as William would like. That is when William seeks the company of the Alabaster cousin Matty, a young and interesting girl who has the same fascination for insect life that William has. They indulge themselves in study and grow fonder and fonder of one another.

    Until...

    The film moves at a very slow pace, but it doesn't possess the brooding quality of a good dramatic film, so despite it's efforts, it fails to be captivating or moving. There are times where I longed to fast forward to find some meaning within the film; to find a sequence of events that didn't leave me cold.

    Then the last thirty minutes happened and I found my dreams coming true; but it's a case of too little too late for sure.

    The acting is very strong in areas and then very weak in others. Mark Rylance is superbly understated as William. He matches the tone of the film well, and says a lot with his eyes, conveying emotions and concerns long before his words are spoken. Kristen Scott Thomas is a major highlight, especially in her final scene where her emotional guard is dropped and her character is fully fleshed out to us. In fact, the finest scene of acting comes during a card game towards the films finale when William makes the word `insect' only to have Matty rearrange the letters.

    Look at those eyes.

    Patsy Kensit, Jeremy Kemp and Douglas Henshall are all effective. I at first as put off by Henshall, but he grew on me towards the end. Annette Badland is just plain bad, but whatever.

    I really wanted the best for this film. It has a lot to say about the deeper side of human relationships and it's theories of Darwinism and their social relevance could have been rather enlightening; but the films construction and overall delivery is poorly done and takes away from any significant impact this film could have had....more info
  • A Victorian Costume Drama That Is Way Off The Beaten Path
    Set in England in the 1860's, ANGELS AND INSECTS is a highly unusual film. Briefly stated it is the story of William, a young entomologist from working class beginnings, who can't believe his luck when Eugenie Alabaster, the lovely, fragile, daughter of his very wealthy benefactor agrees to marry him and everyone in the Alabaster family but her brother Edgar seems to approve the match. It seems poor Eugenie had previously had her heart broken by a fianc¨¦ who committed suicide. However it soon becomes apparent to the viewer if not her new husband that Eugenie's relationship with her overbearing brother, Edgar, may be the real cause of her unhappiness.

    The positives of the movie include the fine acting (especially by Kristen Scott Thomas as Maddy, the poor relation serving as governess to the Alabaster family), beautiful photography as well as on location settings and unique, vibrant Victorian costumes that may not be totally historically accurate but underscore the connection between the female members of the Alabaster household and certain insects. Unfortunately the movie is so heavy handed in connecting the Alabaster family drama to the bug world that some characters become almost caricatures. And the film has some explicit scenes including nudity that seem unnecessary.

    ...more info
  • I love this movie!!!!!
    Average Joes, beware-this movie is not for you! It's cerebral, sensuous, gorgeously photographed and art directed, with amusing costumes and fine performances. If you like Poison and Blue Velvet, try this....more info
  • This movie will bug you
    The story of this movie can be summed up in four lines: Man goes to live at mansion. Man falls for and marries daughter of the house. Man learns BIG SECRET. Man runs for it. That's it. For two hours. Did I hear you say the pace is slow?

    The filmmakers did manage to make Patsy Kensit's face look repellant. That certainly is an achievement. I guess. Shaved off her eyebrows. Colored her lips and face pale--the death-warmed-over look. There is brief full-frontal, but the effect is spoiled by that ghastly face. (To see what she really looks like, get Adam Bede.)

    To say that any relations between the bugs and the people is strained or far-fetched at best would be an understatement. But I guess people who paid for this movie need some illusion of profundity to justify their wasted time and money.

    The big surprise at the end can be seen coming from miles away. In the end, your feeling will be the same as the man's--Let me out of here!
    ...more info
  • beautiftul, devastating, with a happy ending yet.
    The DVD is as carefully put together as the novella, and the people in it look just as you hope and expect they will. A young man who has been studying the fauna of Africa--especially moths and butterflies---finds himself unexpectedly the pennyless, but by no means useless, guest of a rich English family, and procedes to fall in love with the eligible daughter--who shares both a name and beauty with one of his surviving moths: Eugenia. Scott=Thomas, the best known of the actors in the movie, has what appears at first to be a minor role, but it doesn't stay that way. She is excellent in this non-glamorous role. It is impossible to discuss some of the more important aspects of the story without giving too much away...perhaps it is enough to say: things are not what they seem (I think that's the name of one of Matty's ---Scott-Thomas's--stories). The young hero has a beautiul voice, gentle and caressing, and the villain is an excellent actor, with a perfect appearance for his role. The movie should be rated R; I imagine it is......more info
  • Fantastic
    This film is a wonderful unusual drama. Great cast, very English. I love it....more info
  • If you need an excuse to see frontal nudity, this is it.
    This is a repellent story about an impoverished Victorian entomologist who falls in love with an aristocrat. The only redeeming value of this movie was to depict in what is probably a realistic way the treatment of servants in that era....more info
  • Stunning and shocking!
    A wealthy Victorian family is teeming with sexual restraint. Enter, a poor naturalist who falls in love with the beautiful daughter of the head of the household. She appears to be afraid of sex, yet she has secrets that her new husband cannot even begin to imagine. The governess, exquisitely and masterfully portrayed by Kristen Scott Thomas, barely conceals her powerful attraction to the naturalist. He attempts to ignore her, despite his wife's lack of sexual interest in her husband. However, Thomas's character has a keen intelligence and gift for studying nature, which was at its zenith during the Victorian period. The two naturalists are drawn together by their interests. As the story evolves, Thomas attempts to reveal the reality of the family that supports the naturalist. In doing so, she is at once subversive and mysterious. Yet there is no doubt that the naturalist must know the world in which he resides. Like the Age of Innocense, the tension is almost unbearable, but unlike that film, Angels and Insects unveils the bizarre nature of human beings when desires are forced "underground." In "Insects," the insects appear to be the only living things that are normal. This beautifully atmospheric and Victorian drenched film will shock some viewers. But it will also enlighten those who think that the good old days were "good." There is a butterfly scene that is magnificient....more info
  • Of insects and dark family secrets
    "Angels and Insects" unfolds leisurely, and is an aesthetically pleasing movie. Based upon A.S. Byatt's [whose "Possession" was also adapted for the big screen] novella "Morpho Eugenia", the story centers around an impoverished naturalist, William Adamson [Mark Rylance] who has spent a great many years in the wilds of the Amazon, studying the insect colonies there. Upon his return to Victorian England, he is taken under the benevolent wings of Rev Harald Alabaster [Jeremy Kemp], and promptly forms an attachment to the Rev's daughter, the ethereally beautiful Eugenia [Patsy Kline]. The pair marry and settle in Eugenia's family manor, where Adamson finds himself treated with disdain and condescension by Eugenia's boorish brother. Even his wife blows hot and cold, exhibiting wanton passion one moment, and shunning all physical contact the next, leaving Adamson perplexed. The years pass, and Adamson finds himself unaware of darker undercurrents running through the Alabaster household, which harbors some very dark and perverse secrets. Adamson meanwhile dedicates himself to his bug study, aided by a poor Alabaster cousin, Matty [Kristin Scott Thomas], and it is only in the last half an hour of the movie that the action speeds up and Adamson is made aware of the darker events occurring in his home.

    Though I was engrossed in this story, I did find the first half rather plodding, and also quite infuriating as the viewer senses the 'secret' in the story long before naive Adamson does. Mark Rylance is credible as the unsuspecting husband and devoted naturalist, as are Kristin Scott Thomas' spinsterish Matty and Patsy Kensit's blonde beauty Eugenia. The cinematography is lush and beautiful, even to the extent of romanticizing the insects featured.

    Viewers need to be forewarned that there is plenty of graphic nudity in this, i.e. male and female full frontal nudity. To some extent it does serve a purpose in the narration of the story. This is no prudish Victorian drama, but a period movie that happens to deal with some dark themes. It is definitely worth checking out for fans of serious period dramas....more info
  • unique departure from traditional films
    this film is a thought-provoking look at an e...more info
  • Go for it!
    This was fantabulous! I loved the unexpectedness and richness of the story, the often-unusual (for Victorian times) costumes, and the superb acting. What a treat, visually and emotionally! If you liked "The Piano," this film is for you. If psychological mazes do not intrigue you, stay away. And I certainly WAS surprised at the ending -- and this rarely happens to me anymore. All in all, this was an exhilarating two hours. Enjoy!...more info
  • A Study in Intellectual Cognitive Dissonance
    In a ruthlessly subtle way, this movie documents the intellectual fault-line created in the Western World by the publication of Darwin's THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES in 1859 and the growing knowledge from geologic studies that the earth is unimagineably old. In literary terms, the "Humpty-Dumpty" of Authority has fallen off the wall of tradition and Harold Alabaster is appalled and terrified by the picture of a ruthlessly impersonal universe emerging from such findings, but thrilled by the advance of human knowledge that has revealed it. The comfortable Alabaster Family is totally unaware that their affluence rests upon American slavery and the exactions of the British East-Indian Company or that their behaviors have striking similarities with those of the social insects. One servant recognizes the similarity of slavery among the ants and that within the warring United States and "prays nightly for the success of Mr. Lincoln's cause." The portrayal of Mr. Adamson's and Eugenia's wedding night intimacy is a unique viewing experience. Edgar's endlessly boorish behaviors are analogous to those of the universe. This movie is a tribute to the incisive intellect of Andrea Susan Byatt, and can be experienced as a briliantly told story or an intellectual tour de force; however, the latter can be better comprehended by reading MORPHO EUGENIA (type of Amazon butterfly), the novella on which the movie was based. ...more info
  • Interesting
    Although I wasn't crazy about this film, I will admit that it has fine acting, lovely reproduction of the Victorian era, and a somewhat creative plot (although the ending seemed a little sudden). If you have a taste for the slightly bizarre, you might like this. And in case you dislike nudity in movies, don't worry--it's not so bad, and tastefully done....more info
  • Angels and Insects
    My husband and I watched Angels and Insects when it first hit the movie theaters and thought it was an excellent movie. We wanted to see it again and bought the DVD. We have not changed our view of the movie. Two thumbs up, it was worth watching again....more info
  • A(U)NTS AND MOTH(ER)S
    ANGELS AND INSECTS, directed in 1995 by Philip Haas, tells the story of William Adamson, a poor entomologist who, after a shipwreck that destroyed all his notes, returns to his patron and falls in love with his major daughter. During the next three years, he will understand that the behavior of the members of his wife's family bears a striking resemblance with what can be observed in the world of insects.

    So one of the guilty pleasures provided by ANGELS AND INSECTS is to force us to study every move of the characters and find what can link them to our little ugly friends. In this perspective, Eugenia's mother, Lady Alabaster, is obviously the personification of the queen of bees and the scene of the ball, with all these charming women wearing multicoloured dresses, can be decoded as the dance of seduction observed in any animal society. At last, a special mention to Patsy Kensit who gives a terrific performance as Eugenia Alabaster, a woman you will adore and hate.

    A DVD for your library....more info
  • Absolutely spectacular film!
    Angels and Insects is one of the most visually stunning movies I have ever seen and every bit of the immense beauty & luxury that is on the screen contributes to the sense & definition of exquisite excess that is so ingrained in the Alabasters' way of life. If one imagines what this movie would have been like as a 1940s Hollywood effort, perhaps starring Olivier & Fontaine, ala Rebecca, then one must really appreciate the subtly shaded performances. I have never seen better acting onscreen, especially in the performances of Rylance & Thomas. And all the interplay of idea & emotion, science & passion, objectivity & subjectivity, so rarely transferable from print to film are so brilliantly achieved here. Hey, even the sex scenes are among the best I've ever viewed....more info
  • Stunning
    I had never heard of this film, but I was stunned when it crossed my path. It is "in the manner of" Merchant/Ivory, but the story is both more important and vivid than most of theirs. It is a beautiful rendering of one of the abiding human paradoxes: a good man who finds that physical love and security are hollow when they keep him from his life's work. Altogether worthy of Greek Tragedy or Jane Austin. Perfectly cast, paced, written and photographed. Kensit finally shows that she has the capacity for serious work, and Haas could not be better. Entertaining, visually splendid. A minor classic! It's too bad they couldn't find a better title....more info
  • Beautifully And Deceptively Obscene!
    Wonderful onscreen version of the unexpectedly sensual A.S. Byatt novella Morpho Eugenia, about one William Adamson, a soft-spoken, scholarly Amazon explorer in mid-Victorian England, who returns penniless but learned to his mother country after years abroad pursuing on-site study in entomology. The biologist Adamson, about whom the old saying "still waters run deep" could easily be true, becomes infatuated above his station in life with Eugenia (played by Patsy Kinset) the lovely, cornsilk-haired daughter of his financial sponsor, a country squire and Darwin supporter named Sir Harald Alabaster, and soon weds the young woman, whom, as Adamson learns, was engaged once before to a suitor who committed suicide shortly before the wedding was scheduled to take place. While Adamson is never made aware of why Eugenia's fianc¨¦ took his own life, he sees that the tragedy has both marked and scarred Eugenia, which draws him to her all the more, one social outsider to another.

    After a steamy wedding night, fully depicted here by director Phillip Haas, the intrepid, deceptively mild-mannered explorer is soon ensconced in the goings on in the household of his new family, headed by the open-minded Alabaster, and also featuring an obese but kindly matron, a sadistic eldest son, Edgar, in-laws, and a beguiling servant, Matty Crompton, played by Kristin Scott Thomas. All the while as Adamson lives among the wealthy Alabasters, a family aptly named, for each of them is snow-white in complexion, with hair so blond it tends toward whiteness, he writes of his travels in the Amazon, cataloging and describing the insect life he discovered there. By outward appearances, Adamson is in a better position than any he could ever have dreamed of possessing, yet he finds himself increasingly discontent.

    Years pass. Several children are born to Eugenia, all of them with the characteristic near-albino quality of the Alabasters, which acts to somehow distance Adamson from the young ones so that he finds himself pulled back toward the uncertain, dangerous life he knew in the Amazon. He collaborates on a story about the daily life of a local ant colony, has conflicts with his hideously callous brother-in-law, Edgar, a man who amuses himself with the sexual abuse of a young servant named Amy, and strikes up an unexpectedly meaningful friendship with Matty, whom he finds to be far deeper and bolder in spirit than he had ever guessed, merely trapped in her life, as most people tend to be. Eventually problems arise, stunning truths emerge, and Adamson makes a chilling discovery about the nature of relations within the Alabaster family. In the end the film, like the novella before it, becomes a commentary on the sub-surface life of outwardly prim Victorians, as well as a treatise of sorts on Darwinian notions of fitness and superiority in the insect world as well as the human one.

    Be aware that when it was originally released in the mid-1990's, this film was rated NC-17, and even in our jaded 2000's it still retains the power to raise (among other things) eyebrows. It's a fine motion picture that tells a deep story, and tells it well with visual lusciousness, but it as it deals with biology it is brimming with sex, nudity, and other entertaining situations, so be aware of that. Angels & Insects is not for the thick-minded or easily shocked, but all others should find it captivating.
    ...more info
  • Stunning movie.
    Stunning movie of a long term sister-brother incestuous relationship.
    I was really shocked how naive the husband was as he didn't suspect anything wrong that his wife was letting him in her bed only before she was pregnant and even when he realised that "his" children had no ressemblance to him.
    I was more shocked when he told his wife that he was leaving her and she confessed to him that the incestuous affair was going on since she was very young and her only fear was for her husband not to reveal to the world her shocking incestuous secret....more info
  • Well Done
    A well done film depicting the sexuality and perversion seething below the genteel surface of Victorian aristocracy....more info
  • bizarre, but good
    One of the more bizarre movies I've seen lately. I loved it. Give it a go.

    And come on; there's hardly any nudity. Gimme a break....more info