The House of the Spirits (1994) - Rotten Tomatoes

The House of the Spirits (1994)



Critic Consensus: An enviable collection of sterling actors are all woefully miscast in The House of the Spirits, a plodding saga of magical realism that lacks much magic or realism.

Movie Info

Bille August directed this film version of the Isabel Allende novel, featuring a cast that includes Jeremy Irons, Meryl Streep, and Glenn Close. The story is a sweeping and brooding melodrama, spanning generations and filled with violence, revenge, and telekinesis. The tale begins in South America in 1926, when a young man, Esteban (Jeremy Irons), falls in love with the daughter of a rich man, Rosa Del Valle (Teri Polo). He vows to become rich enough to make her his wife and spends months of toil in the gold fields to earn enough money to do just that. Before the two marry, however, Rosa is killed by poison meant for her father. After the tragedy, Esteban moves to Trés Marias, an abandoned ranch, and spends 20 years of his life turning the ranch into a thriving estate, exploiting the labor of the poor who live off the land. When he returns to the city, he comes across Rosa's younger sister Clara (Meryl Streep), now a woman with telekinetic abilities. Clara took a vow of silence years before, but upon the arrival of Esteban, she speaks for the first time in years -- "You have come to propose marriage to me," she says. Esteban and Clara marry, and Esteban takes her back to the ranch, where they have a daughter, Blanca (Winona Ryder). Their daughter falls in love with the son of one of Esteban's foremen, a hot-headed revolutionary named Pedro (Antonio Banderas). Now, the country is in the throes of revolution. Esteban banishes his sister Ferula (Glenn Close) from the ranch, beats his wife, and rapes a peasant woman. The product of Esteban's rape (Joaquin Martinez) grows into an angry young man who convinces Esteban to send him away to military school. When there is a military coup, the illegitimate son returns to Trés Marias with revenge and torture on his mind.

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Jeremy Irons
as Esteban Trueba
Meryl Streep
as Clara Trueba
Glenn Close
as Ferula Trueba
Vincent Gallo
as Esteban Garcia
Jan Niklas
as Satigny
Aninio Assumicio
as Man at Cattle Market
Julie Balloo
as Young Lady
Frank Baker
as Intelligence Officer
Pedro Efe
as Interrogation Officer
Victor Rocha
as Soldier
Rogerio Claro
as Man in Club
Vivian Reis
as Indian Girl
Franco Diogent
as Man at Party
Pedro Effe
as Immigration Officer
Fran Fullenwider
as Emer Trueba
Jane Gray Sullivan
as Young Clara
Denys Hawthorne
as Politician
Frank Lenart
as Interviewer
Josh Maguire
as Pedro (as a child)
Steve Mason
as Maestro
Jean Michael
as Musician
Luis Pinhao
as Woodcarver
Vivianna Reis
as Indian Girl
Manuela Santos
as Saleswoman
Joost Stedhoff
as Father Antonio
Hannah Taylor-Gordon
as Clara (as a child)
Martin Umbach
as TV Reporter
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News & Interviews for The House of the Spirits

Critic Reviews for The House of the Spirits

All Critics (38) | Top Critics (18)

The greatest actors in the world can't overcome a script that boils everything down to the Esperanto of cliche.

February 13, 2018 | Full Review…
Top Critic

The thing works in its goofy way, mainly because Bille August is a man of apparently dauntless conviction. He has written and directed every scene with serene authority.

May 20, 2013 | Full Review…

The flaws aren't fatal. The beauty and brilliance that might have been, don't preclude the quality and bravery that exist on the screen.

May 20, 2013 | Rating: 2.5/4

The House of the Spirits is like Gone With the Wind with the fun and excitement replaced by lofty. All that's left is the wind.

May 20, 2013 | Rating: 1/5

How can an accomplished director take a great novel, the best actors working and the finest technicians available and make a film so... bland? It's a puzzlement.

May 20, 2013 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

Inert from its opening moments to its too-long-delayed close, this lackluster production is an example of international filmmaking at its least attractive, and a misstep in the careers of pretty much everyone involved.

May 20, 2013 | Rating: 1.5/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The House of the Spirits

Shit film, good book.

Lesley N
Lesley N

Super Reviewer

Even a high-powered cast cannot save this sketchy depiction of 70 years in the history of an unnamed country (reportedly Chile) as seen by three generations of aristocracy. Not quite an all-out embarrassment, but close.

Dean McKenna
Dean McKenna

Super Reviewer

Wow. I get the feeling the book was not nearly as crappy as this.

Sunil Jawahir
Sunil Jawahir

Super Reviewer

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