House of the Spirits, The

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +2

Content: -2

Young Clara, a clairvoyant, becomes a self-imposed mute when her older sister, Rosa, dies suddenly from poisoning. Years later Clara's (Meryl Streep) silence is broken when Estoban Trueba (Jeremy Irons) offers a marriage proposal. Estoban is a ruthless businessman who has made his fortune running a silver mine and citrus groves using peasant labor. His unmarried sister, Ferula (Glenn Close), comes to live with him and Clara after their mother's death. But Estoban's jealousy of Ferula's relationship with Clara, his illicit sexual affairs, and his involvement with the rich conservative party eventually alienate Estoban from his entire family. When Clara dies and their daughter Blanca (Winona Ryder) is arrested for being a revolutionary, his selfish values change to family preservation. This drama, set in Chile, lumbers along for nearly 2 1/2 hours and chronicles three generations.

Most shocking are Estoban's condescending attitudes toward women and the blatant nudity of the film. His rape of a village woman and relationship with a prostitute are shown graphically on screen. However, his illicit affairs come back both to haunt and to help him later in life. On the one hand, his illegitimate son participates in the torture of his daughter, while on the other, a prostitute he frequented in his early years helps him free Blanca. Ferula's character struggles intensely with being a virgin, and Clara's friendship and genuine tenderness leave Ferula feeling confused. She confesses to a priest that she spies on Clara and Estoban as they make love and feels jealous of their intimacy. Estoban, however, suspects his sister of being a lesbian and orders her to leave. While Clara has premonitions about tragedies before they occur, they are not overtly occultic. However, she is shown consulting tarot cards once. The New Age spiritism becomes more focused when Ferula's recently departed spirit visits Estoban's family one night at dinner to give Clara a kiss goodbye. Clara's spirit also visits Blanca in prison. The film's inclusion of New Age and occultic elements, along with an abundance of nudity, do not add up to a satisfying story.

Preview Reviewer: Krista Kay Bontrager
Miramax Films, 18 E. 48th St., Ste. 1601, NY, NY 10017

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Few (4) times - Moderate

Obscene Language: None

Profanity: Exclamatory 3 times

Violence: Several times - Moderate and severe (two whippings; shots fired; blows to head/face and stomach; couple killed in train accident; forced touching of woman's genitals; graphic autopsy on woman; on-screen rape)

Sex: Implied twice with prostitute; sex between married couple once, and unmarried couple once)

Nudity: Several times (female breast nudity twice; rear female/male nudity 3 times; near female and male nudity; naked children swim in pond; naked female body)

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: Two illegitimate children; prostitution condoned

Drugs: None

Other: Use of tarot cards; New Age spiritism

Running Time:
Intended Audience: Adults

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