The House of the Spirits (1993)

This unfortunate adaptation of Isabel Allende’s novel is a miscalculation for the ages. Despite a tremendously talented cast and the sure-handed direction of Bille August, there’s just no way to make Allende’s sprawling novel into a satisfying cinematic experience: There’s everything from telekinesis, child molestation, bestiality, rape, torture, dismemberment and homoeroticism, set against the backdrop of the Chilean revolution through the lives of an patriarchal, aristocratic family. The actors don’t seem to know how to work with each other, with many approaches to performance clashing regularly on the screen, but the dialogue is so alternately stiff and awkward that it doesn’t matter. It’s astounding that this movie isn’t more famous for how bizarre and downright surreal it is, particularly given the cast.

Rating: ★★ (out of 5)

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