Cinerama: The House of Spirits

Posted: September 11, 2009 in Cinerama

The House of Spirits

By Mike Derderian

Before you start reading through whatever I have decided to write about this week, I want you to take a look at my photo at the upper right corner of my column—a photo of a writer that is losing its features. Is it the effect of time or just bad printing quality, who knows?

To me it’s just another photo of myself as for you it’s the image of a weekly column writer who has a fascination with films and has been living all of his life according to his own script, cast and soundtrack.

I might simply say that I sold my soul either to God or to the devil in order to obtain an immortal soul where my photo bears all the effects of time and space. Just like a young and handsome Dorian Gray, yet in my case you can leave out the handsome part of the whole issue where my photo is in constant decay unlike my soul.

Man’s soul is supposedly the only part that doesn’t wither away and shrivels up like a rose out of thirst, our soul is all that matters in life for the rest is a shell that will crack in time allowing our spirits to soar freely into the sky.

Throughout his short-lived life on earth, man acquired some super natural qualities through his bonding with nature; however, after civilization and religion prevailed this side was long forgotten.

Blinded by his quest for the materialistic life man no longer believes in the supernatural, in his sixth sense that once enabled him to sense danger or predicate who he will meet and when his hour shall strike.

When the hour strikes you’ll find yourself standing in an empty house full of dust-covered furniture that was once used by living beings for our lives are governed by the merciless hands of time that will leave us with a house full of spirits.

“The House of the Spirits,” is a 1993 production based on one of the bestseller novels written by South American writer Isabel Allende, who also wrote “Afrodita”— a book about love and how to invigorate the senses through sensual food recipes.

The film at hand is quite different even though its theme revolves around forbidden love, hate, and revenge all intermingled with a supernatural background represented in the character of Clara portrayed by Meryl Streep.

Along with Streep the film’s cast is quite good for we have Jeremy Irons, Glenn Close, Winona Ryder, Antonio Banderas, in addition to veteran actress Vanessa Redgrave and Maria Conchita Alonso even though the latter had a minor role as a prostitute.

Directed by Bille August with a touching musical score by Hans Zimmer the final produce was quite enjoyable and surreal especially during the climactic levels of emotion heightened by the melancholic music.

“Our memory is fragile, a lifetime is very brief, everything happens so fast that we don’t have the time to understand the relationship between events,” these memorable words were narrated by Blanca Trueba (Ryder), one of the main protagonists in the film.

We are told that her mother Clara (Streep) wrote those words in her diary, believing that writing down daily events would help us comprehend the events that we undergo later on.

After being introduced to Clara, who along with her older sister Rosa live with their grandparents Severo and Nivea del valle, we shift to the main character of Esteban Trueba (Irons).

Leaving his sister Ferula (Close), to seek his fortune at a secluded ranch called Trista Maria after the death of Rosa, who he wanted to marry, Esteban through his hard work becomes the richest and most influential man in Chile.

The events of the film span from the year 1922 and reach the turbulent years of the seventies when Chile suffered a military coupe that lead to a lot of injustice that affected the Trueba in return.

During this time, the Trueba have their share of problems one of which is Blanca’s falling in love with childhood mate Pedro (Banderas), who grows to become a revolutionary, preaching the villagers working for Estaban to free themselves from the clutches of feudalism.

Blanca’s dispute with her father, who wants to kill Pedro, creates a chasm between him and dear Clara whom he loves so much for she supports her daughter’s choice and doesn’t care for the fact that Pedro comes from a working class.

Esteban, however, believes that she should marry someone from her own status, forgetting that he once raped a woman in the forest and has a bastard son who bears the malice of his father’s sin and becomes quite a villain as you will find out.

The film offers us a humanistic look on life mixed with a supernatural feel that life is worth fighting for and that one should follow his instincts for we only live once. There are no encores in life, you have one shot and that is all.

“To me life itself has become the most important thing,” these are Blanc’s words, however, are they final? Do they sum up the film or life? You’ll have to find out by yourself.

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