What You Need To Know:
(NA, L, NN, SSS, VVV, O, H, PC, B) New Age worldview; 1 mild obscenity; multiple brief, but vivid views of couples having sex; rape, adultery & sexual immorality; child fondled by would-be molester; woman severely beaten & sexually abused by sadistic guard; man whipped; couple in stalled car crushed by train; brief, but jarring views of woman's body in midst of autopsy; telekinesis, Tarot Card reading, fortune telling & spiritism; New Age & quasi-Marxist underpinnings throughout; positive depiction of major character's repentance & reconciliation with wife & daughter.
Despite a strong cast, some nice photography and a moody musical score, THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS is basically two and a quarter hours of turgid soap-operatics that puts daytime TV to shame. Spanning nearly fifty years of dysfunctional family relations in a strife-torn South American country, this film has saddled many talented players with some of the most awkward dialogue and blatant plot coincidences in recent memory. Centering on beautiful Blanca Trueba (Winona Ryder) and her father, Esteban (Jeremy Irons), we soon meet her mother Clara as a child in 1926. Clara telekinetically shoves objects around, has premonitions and refuses to speak for months at a time. The grown Clara (Meryl Streep) marries Esteban and bears him a daughter, Blanca. There are many other twists and turns to this story along with revolutions and rumors of revolutions, Clara’s parents being run over by a train, visitations from the dead, an ongoing affair with an ambitious prostitute, and the rise of Esteban to a high rank in the government.
The first half of THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS moves along at a brisk enough pace to keep things interesting. Later, the politics, polemics and spiritism slow the plot down to a deadly crawl. THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS is deadly serious in its determination that we not miss a single one of its politically correct messages.