CAST: Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Jeremy Irons, Winona Ryder, Antonio Banderas, Maria Conchita Alonso, Vincent Gallo, Jan Niklas, Armin MUeller-Stahl, Vanessa Redgrave.
WRITTEN BY: Novel by Isabel Allende
ONE WORD: Well told. Great English style novel.

Isabel Allende's novel The House of Spirits is turned into a film. And its biographical style is fine for a novel, but it very tricky for anything else, specially when things are still going on today as a result of those goings on in the 60's.

This is the story of a well to do family and its involvement in the political circles, until the times change and the political atmosphere forces a reconciliation of total opposites. And what a nice touch it is. And it is a triumph of the spirit, rather than a revolution that made little sense except to those involved who wanted the power and were bent on corrupting a system that was working, even if it wasn't perfect. The same happened to Brazil at about the same time.

This film spans several generations and basically starts with Isabel's mother whose psychic abilities were very obvious, even if the father may not have appreciated them, until the end, when Isabel, has succeeded with a large thanks to her father, who had doomed her and her lover, through his blind ideals.

Isabel has been in love, since childhood with a lowly man, whom the father considers unfit to marry his daughter, and this creates serious rifts in the family. Though the mother and father love each other very much, still the respect for one's wishes and desires is hard to deal with, specially for someone involved in daily political life, and a successful land owner. Part of the upper class job, in those third world countries, is to control, and punish the lower classes, into submission and work. The result, often is alright, but there are times when things do not go according to plan, and this story of Isabel is one of them. The father does not approve, but he can not ever touch these soul mates. They survive, and eventually he has to do something about it all, since, it is his daughter.

The poignant story simplifies the political struggle and story in Chile at the time, but it does get its point across in a very American point of view. That is was a devilish army, etc, etc, etc, that did all this bad stuff. Unfortunately, what they didn't say that behind that army was very American money. It should have suggested it more openly.

But Isabel, even as a novelist, has been around long enough in the political circles to know one thing. That pointing the finger is the same as pointing a gun, and instead of doing just that, she takes the view that things could have been right, and that they could have been also wrong. But the way things were done, was definitely wrong, specially for her. It isn't very clear if she indeed did get together with her lover, but it is clear that they did finally leave the country, and may have escaped what might have been even bigger persecution.

In this sense, Isabel made sure that the story stuck to a romantic outline, or hope, rather than fall into the hands of the very instinct which she disliked, and fell victim to.

The well cast film, makes it way through very emotional material and of special note here is Meryl Streep as the psychic mother, and Jeremy Irons although he is a bit over done compared to all the others. Wynona Ryder is very good as the young and independent Isabel, the same person who goes on to tell the story, which seems to be an indication that she did indeed leave the country and survived its vicious militancy by that political regime.

This is a nice film, with a well told story, by someone who has been there. As such, it is, always, a bit more than just what you see, which is nice for a film. There are details that show up again and again that just keep one's attention. And certain people keep showing up again, in different contexts, which adds to the intricate mix, which is this story. One can only hope that the revolution was not a waste, as it did break a lot of innocent people, as it usually does, but in the long run, the good usually survives, and is remembered. The Allende family may not have been the right, and the perfect leaders, but if Clara and Blanca (Isabel) are any indication, the military may have had reason to be afraid of people like them. They would have undone a military sooner or later. And of course, this was not going to happen to overly eager generals with solid CIA money.

Excellent film, though one may consider it "heavy" at times (specially Jeremy Irons' make up), but it is good.





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