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The House of the Spirits [VHS]
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Product Description

The House of the Spirits is a generational tale of life among the ruling class in a South American country, as adapted from the Isabel Allende novel, but the political realities coexist very uneasily with the magical realism in this Bille August film. The star power alone (Jeremy Irons, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Winona Ryder, Antonio Banderas, Vanessa Redgrave, and Armin Mueller-Stahl) should have cranked it up a few notches, but that's not the case. Irons is appropriately cruel as the ambitious man who achieves wealth and makes everyone around him miserable and Streep is luminous, but it's slow and ponderous all the way. --Marshall Fine

Customer Reviews:

  • Very pleasing
    Very good movies. Not as great as the actual book, as many movies made from books are.
    ...more info
  • A Poor Adaptation
    I've seen many films in nearly all genres over the years. Rarely do I stop watching before the end of a film. This is one of those rare films that I found very poorly acted, despite the stellar cast. I don't know whether the director or screenwriter deserves the most blame for this lackluster story. This film does a grave disservice to Isabel Allende's book. Watch this at your own risk....more info
  • Corrections for Synopsis
    Extremely Fantastic Movie! I just happened along this movie on
    The IFC Channel, hate to think how many really good movies I miss and have missed.

    Please rewrite the synopsis as follows: sentence #2, "The poor Estaban marries Clara and they have (not get) a daughter, Blanca.
    Sentence #3, Estaban works hard and earns (not gets) the money to buy.....

    After reading the negative reviews on this movie I would like to remind people that the book was 'loosely based' on the novel. I really wonder what the negative reviewers think is a good movie, let me know!...more info
  • the house of spirits
    The dvd is a shame! I didn't even buy it! Why?
    Because there was some users comments on the page reporting that the film in this dvd version was edited, changing the begining of the movie (absurd!). Executives shoudn't keep changing movies just because the digital technologies allow them to! Moreover, it shoudn't be fomated from its widescreen version to the 4x3 TV format. Leave the movies untouched!...more info
  • extremely disappointed....
    I did really wanted to buy this dvd. I liked the movie when I first saw it in the movietheater. But one good habit of mine is reading the comments of other buyers. Thank you guys!!!
    This STUPID idea of editing, changing, cutting or whatever the companies may say, with the idea of improving the movie... well, it simply does NOT improve anything at all. Totally the opposite: just spoil it. And the good feelings to see a good movie again, at your home, is completely gone.
    The movie itself is great! But my suggestion is (sorry just rent it!!! And after that, if you still like it, then you may buy it....more info
    I love this movie! It has a stellar cast, who give top notch performances. How can you go wrong with Jeremy Irons, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Antonio Banderas, Winona Ryder, Vanessa Redgrave, and Armin Muehler-Stahl? The answer is that you can't. It is a riveting piece of film making, based loosely upon Isabelle Allende's wonderful book of the same name.

    The film delicately captures the mysticism of the book, rendering those scenes in which such is the focal point highly believable. This is no mean feat given the subject matter. The story takes place in South America. The saga begins in the nineteen thirties.

    Vanessa Redgrave and Armin Muehler-Stahl play the wealthy and liberal parents of two daughters, Rosa and Clara Del Valle. Rosa is the beautiful, older daughter. Clara, played by Meryl Streep's real life daughter, is a lovely child with exceptional, psychic gifts. Jeremy Irons plays the part of Esteban Trueba, an impoverished young man in love with Rosa. Vowing to make his fortune in order to marry her and provide her with the comforts to which she is accustomed, he succeeds in making his fortune. He loses Rosa, however, before being able to marry her, when she drinks poisoned wine intended for her liberal party father.

    Esteban, broken hearted, leaves with his fortune and buys an estancia, where he sternly rules with an iron fist over the peasants who work the land for him. They obsequiously refer to him as "Patron". He takes what he wants, even the women, with the expected result. He has a bastard son whom he does not acknowledge.

    Esteban has a spinster sister, Ferla, well acted by Glenn Close, who, for the past twenty years, has lived a grim existence in the city with their ailing mother, whom she has taken care of. When their mother dies, Esteban, now a bitter and lonely man, returns to the city from his estancia to attend his mother's funeral. In doing so, he spots Clara, who is now all grown up and ethereally portrayed by the very talented Meryl Streep. Not wasting a moment, he goes to her home. She, luminous, and mystical, already knows that he is there to ask for her hand in marriage and happily accepts. After all, she has loved him ever since she first saw him all those years ago.

    Clara lovingly embraces his sister, Ferla, into the bosom of her househould, when they move to her Esteban's estancia. Ferla blossoms from a bitter old maid into a companionable and pleasant woman, under Clara's warmth. Esteban and Clara eventually have a child, Blanca, who grows up playing with Pedro, the son of the estancia's indigenous indian foreperson. When Esteban discovers this, he sends Blanca away to boarding school. He does not want his daughter fraternizing with the peasants.

    Clara, loving and pure of heart, is his exact opposite. When their daughter finally grows up and returns home from school, she knows that the independent Blanca, well played by Winona Ryder, has fallen in love with her childhood playmate, Pedro, passionately portrayed by Antonio Banderas. Esteban hates Pedro, as Pedro is a liberal inciting the peasants to unionize and demand their rights, whipping them into a frenzy against the "Patron", or so Esteban sees it. He drives Pedro off his land. He also drives Ferla off, as he believes her to have unatural feelings for his wife, Clara. Possessive to a fault, he is consumed by jealousy. Clara and Esteban have a fight over his cruelties, and she finally leaves him, taking Blanca with her to the Del Valle family home in the city.

    Meanwhile, life goes on. Blanca, pregnant by Pedro, has his child, believing that Pedro has been killed by her father. Esteban, representing the wealthy, becomes senator. He reigns for years, until the liberals win power. When they do, however, their tenure is short lived, as a militairy coup sets up a reign of terror and his old sins come home to roost. Meanwhile, Blanca discovers that Pedro is alive, and they joyously hook up again. When Blanca is picked up as a political dissident and tortured for her political views, Esteban, old and broken, is now just a bit player in a larger arena. Too late, he tries to right some wrongs. Some of the wrongs, however, can never be righted.

    This is a magnificent, multi-generational family epic, that holds the viewer in its thrall. While it only loosely follows Isabelle Allende's wonderful book of the same name, it is a winner in its own right. It has something for everyone, as it deals with human nature, as well as the complex emotions, forces, and events that shape one. The film is about a family struggling to find its place in our ever changing world, and the relationships that each member of that family forges. It is a rich and vibrant tapestry, which succeeds in capturing the viewer....more info
  • A rewarding film!
    From the touching inspiration of Isabel Allende, this feminine perspective deals about the profound emotional conflicts inside a wealthy family. The film makes a smart narrative ellipsis through threwe generations along seventy years, and shows us those first insights of a little child by then, who is gifted of premonitory visions, who falls in love with the boyfriend of her sister. She foresees an imminent tragedy and lives with this terrible sense of guilt by not having been able to avoid it.

    But, through the years, this young boy will become a true wealthy man and love will make the rest. But meanwhile, there's a lot of brilliant secondary plots that enrich the historical vision with absorbing engagement.

    Once more, Jeremy Irons and Merrill Streep reencountered again and both head with admirable realism to convey those unsaid feelings. But besides, the film shows us the social environment, its inner contradictions, the conflict of power between this self-exigent man and his sister Ferula (Glenn Close) and the unstoppable love affair (a veiled homage to Romeo and Juliet) among his own daughter (Winona Ryder with her dazzling beauty) and the son of a very humble worker of his farm (Antonio Banderas).

    The narrative pulse of Billie August breaths a pastoral poetry, with those arresting landscapes but overall to be able to express and even universalize the provincial environment without falling into commonplaces.

    ...more info
    I quite enjoyed at least 75% of this gripping movie because it tells an interesting story, however haphazardly it may be condensed from Isabel Allende's eponymous novel. About 400 pages worth is squashed into the film's lean 140 minutes, but it doesn't skip so much that it gets confusing.

    The book had relied on first person narrative, which lent the sweeping generational and political tumults in a South American country the right touch of personal fervour, and more importantly, a consistent point of view.

    The film on the other hand falters on this facet, a deficiency that robs the film of its conviction, its soul. The director seemed to have assumed that the pithy story would be enough to keep the audience interested, but it is not. About two-thirds of the way through the movie, I found myself counting minutes.

    The terrific cast is what ultimately salvages the movie. Meryl Streep in particular is perfect in her depiction of the ethereal, psychic wife of a powerful plantation owner. Jeremy Irons, as her jealous and ruthless husband, has some fantastic moments too but hams it up somewhat when he plays himself as an old man. Yet his torn emotional battle between his family and his political ambitions is so well brought out that one actually relates to his quandary.

    All in all, although the film waylays something pivotal along the way and of course skimps on being a loyal adaptation, it is surely a lot better than its average rating on Amazon would suggest. Definitely a recommended rental....more info

  • Poor Adaptation
    I never like the invidious comparisons between novels and the movies made from them, but in this case, it is hard to escape. This movie version of Isabel Allende's mesmerizing novel of the same name contains most of the same plot elements, but is sadly lacking in soul and resonance. A stellar cast and sweeping South American scenery still could not make this film more than a sub-par period piece. A pity. ...more info
  • reconciliation and growth- the "connection between events"- that's what the movie is about
    At least that's what it meant to me. Replace "South America" in all reviews by the word "Chile", because that is where the story belongs in its cut and dry facts. A wealthy family, a Shakespearean love between a peasant's son and a land owner's daughter; betrayal, rage, passion, violence and murder, ghosts (spirits), rebelion and freedom: all these are just some of the ingredients portraid in the movie with a great line up, awsome landscape and fairly good soundtrack. If you ever visit Chile, please see this movie and you'll understand part of the Chilean character and history: under our modern facade, there's still Biancas, Pedros and Truebas.
    The movie personally helped me see my own story and find new connections between myself, my family and the culture where I was born and raised: that of Chile's.
    ...more info
  • Very touching
    I actually just saw this movie for the first time condering its a '93 movie and I imediately came to Amazon to purchase it, it's one of those collectable movies.

    The story is very touching, very emotional, very real. The acting - not surprising by the line of actors - is wonderful. Each character appeals to you in a certian way.

    The history is deep and the hardships of this family, although very well off and influential, heartfelt. It puts one in awe at how even people who have so much power at one point can loose it all in an instant, as well as to never treat those beneath you unfairly because of your power, wealth, or position. Never burn bridges basically.

    I found myself thinking about the movie days after. Definately a movie to have, keep, and watch over again every once in a while....more info

  • not bad, considering...
    ...that it's adapted from a novel. Since I haven't read the novel, I have nothing to compare it against but even then it's obvious that a lot has had to be omitted in order to make it into a film.

    Overall, it's a riveting film, though parts of it were fairly predictable---mainly the circular tragedy and poetic/ironic justice parts, and of course the South American socioeconomic/political history is very familiar. Not until reading the production notes on the DVD did I know for certain that the movie is set in Chile, but that was my first guess immediately---though it is curious that the film barely mentions in passing, the vital role of our C.I.A. in setting up the military coup which overthrew the democratically elected government and installed the hideously repressive and genocidal Pinochet regime.

    The ending, with Winona Ryder opining on the preciousness of life's every moment and the power of love and forgiveness, basically pops up out of nowhere but I'm sure that these themes are much better developed in the novel.

    There are far worse ways to spend 2 hours; with this film, despite its subtle flaws, at least we get a little bit of modern South American history and society, even if the dirty little secrets of our C.I.A. involvement in it are just barely hinted at. In many ways it is not only a good eye-opener about social and political injustice and brutality, but also carries something of a feminist edge---showing the reckless and self-absorbed megalomania and egotism of the ambitious men who claw their way into the ruling class and then proceed to keep everyone else around them down and under their thumbs....more info