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11
3.6 out of 5 stars
Angels And Insects [DVD] [1995]
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
This is a stunning period piece, awash with lush scenery and extravagantly beautiful costumes. It is also marvelously acted by all with virtuoso performances by Mark Rylance and Kristin Scott Thomas. The cinematography is breathtaking, and the movie could be characterized as a masterpiece. It is a gem.
The storyline revolves about an impoverished naturalist (Mark Rylance) who returns from the far reaches of the Amazon to England. Having lost his life's work in a shipwreck which he survived, he is taken in by the patriarch of a wealthy, upper class family. In return, he helps his benefactor catalog his eclectic nature collection.
The naturalist, a sensitive, intelligent, and kind individual, falls in love with one of his benefactor's daughters, the mysterious Eugenia, played to perfection by the beautiful and talented Patsy Kensit. He is, however, despised and mistreated by her boorish brother, ostensibly because of his low birth.
After the marriage, he begins an intense study of an ant colony, with the assistance of a poor relation of his benefactor. This poor relation is an intelligent, articulate, and well educated woman (Kristin Scott Thomas). It is plain to the viewer that she, and not her wealthy and beautiful cousin Eugenia, is the one whom the naturalist should have married.
Meanwhile, there is clearly a deep, dark secret within the household. It becomes apparent early on what the secret must be. It is revealed several years into the marriage in a shockingly dramatic fashion, causing the forebearing naturalist to have the veil lifted from his eyes. This in turn acts as the catalyst for the poor relation to reveal her own secret passion.
This is a magnificent film that should not be missed by those who love period pieces and award calibre performances.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
What a teriffic film. Angels & Insects takes place in Victorian England at the country home of Sir Harald Alabaster (Jeremy Kemp), an aging, wealthy aristocrat who is fascinated by insects and the new theories of Charles Darwin. The estate has lots of insects. He has a pale, plump wife, a silly, beautiful daughter, Eugenia Alabaster (Patsy Kensit) and a supercilious, arrogant son, Edgar Alabaster (Douglas Henshall). Into this hothouse arrives William Anderson (Mark Rylance), a penniless explorer and entymologist, who is hired to catalogue Sir Harald's insect collection. Eventuallly Sir Harald dies, Anderson marries Eugenia, children are born, a nanny (Kristin Scott Thomas), as determined as an ant, takes care of the children, and...natural and unnatural selection becomes evident.

The actors are all first-rate. The movie has a stunning look, especially the costumes. The referencing to insects -- beautiful butterflies, single-minded ants, breeding queen bees -- isn't by accident. The movie actually has a satisfying ending, especially considering the secret Eugenia Alabaster shares with...well, no spoilers here.

One person said that the movie was like a cross between Merchant/Ivory and Tennessee Williams. Another wrote that it was like picking up a beautiful stone and finding nasty, squirming things underneath. True. It's a fascinating movie.

The DVD transfer is first-rate.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
This is a stunning period piece, awash with lush scenery and extravagantly beautiful costumes. It is also marvelously acted by all with virtuoso performances by Mark Rylance and Kristin Scott Thomas. The cinematography is breathtaking, and the movie could be characterized as a masterpiece. It is simply a cinematic gem.
The storyline revolves about an impoverished naturalist (Mark Rylance) who returns from the far reaches of the Amazon to England. Having lost his life's work in a shipwreck which he survived, he is taken in by the patriarch of a wealthy, upper class family. In return, he helps his benefactor catalog his eclectic nature collection.
The naturalist, a sensitive, intelligent, and kind individual, falls in love with one of his benefactor's daughters, the mysterious Eugenia, played to perfection by the beautiful and talented Patsy Kensit. He is, however, despised and mistreated by her boorish brother, ostensibly because of his low birth.
After the marriage, he begins an intense study of an ant colony, with the assistance of a poor relation of his benefactor. This poor relation is an intelligent, articulate, and well educated woman (Kristin Scott Thomas). It is plain to the viewer that she, and not her wealthy and beautiful cousin Eugenia, is the one whom the naturalist should have married.
Meanwhile, there is clearly a deep, dark secret within the household. It becomes apparent early on what the secret must be. It is revealed several years into the marriage in a shockingly dramatic fashion, causing the forebearing naturalist to have the veil lifted from his eyes. This in turn acts as the catalyst for the poor relation to reveal her own secret passion.
This is a magnificent film that should not be missed by those who love period pieces and award calibre performances.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 4 September 2001
This film was a masterful piece of work. Mark Rylance's performance as William Adamson showed him to have reached the height of his acting career, but let's hope it still goes a bit higher! The film, although starting off a little odd, progressed into, some very sexy and erotic scenes. N.B. this film is not for the faint-hearted! A cleverly psychological thriller. I rented this from the local video shop because my surname is also Rylance! Kristin Scott Thomas' perfomance was equally good. Although some historians may have some objections to this look at sex in the Victorian era, I felt this, if better known could have been a blockbuster hit.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 20 August 2008
An intelligent and unusual drama, based on A.S. Byatt's short story Eugenia Morpho. In mid 19th century England, a penniless naturalist who has lost his prized specimens from the Amazon in a shipwreck (I think the movie meant him to be a young Charles Darwin, though an incident where his field work possessions were lost in a shipwreck happened to his colleague Alfred Russell Wallace) gets a job cataloging specimens held by the Alabaster family in their country estate. He will eventually marry their daughter Eugenia (Patsy Kensit), despite the fierce opposition of her brother Edgar. Not long after having children with her, he will discover a terrible secret haunting the family. A cousin of the Alabasters, the bookish Matty (Kristin Scott Thomas) will turn out to be his only friend and ally. At times the movie looks like a strange cross between a film by James Ivory and a film by Peter Greenaway, with the Alabaster women carrying bright colored clothes that suggests different sort of insects. Even if you don't take very seriously the entomology references throughout that compare insects with humans, they are nonetheless fun. And the denouement is terrific.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A young naturalist, William Adamson (Mark Rylance), returns from ten years in the Amazon collecting rare specimens, only to see all but one butterfly lost in a shipwreck. You would think that things could not get worse for the young Scotsman, but when he presents that one butterfly to Sir Harald Alabaster (Jeremy Kemp), he becomes ensnared in an even more uncivilized world than that of the jungles of South America.
Adapted from A.S. Byatt's novella "Morpho Eugenia," this 1995 film is a visually stunning period piece, set in Victorian England just as the ideas of Charles Darwin are providing a new way of looking at the social strata of British society. The fact that Adamson studies insects will be of great help in understanding the Alabaster family. Adamson comes to their country home at the invitation of Sir Harald and to organize his insect collection. At a ball Adamson dances with Eugenia Alabaster (Patsy Kensit), who is recovering from the tragedy of having her fiancé kill himself shortly before their wedding. She is beautiful but cold and when she responds to Adamson's kindness her over-protective brother, Edgar (Douglas Henshall) warns him off making stupid comments about keeping the bloodline pure. As a scientist Adamson dismisses such beliefs as nonsense, as does Sir Harald, but he should have paid more attention because Edgar is more than a loose cannon in this household.
William and Eugenia are married, but after enjoying a night of carnal rapture, the new husband finds that his wife's bedroom door is locked to him. A pattern is established as Eugenia produces children, brings William back to her bed, and then endures another languorous pregnancy. Meanwhile, Adamson assists the family tutor, Matty Crompton (Kristin Scott Thomas) in educating the family's youngest daughters in the ways of nature, and eventually their is a grand plan to study a colony of red ants. Adamson will write a scholarly treatise and Matty will provide the illustrations. It will give Adamson something to do between his yearly nights with his wife.
Director Philip Haas provides an apt metaphor for "Angels and Insects" when Adamson shows the young ladies, their tutor, and governess a piece of wood on the forest floor. He turns it over and reveals the teeming insect life that lives beneath it. There is enough about the ways and means of ants to make it clear that this metaphor is a full-blown conceit in the film (Eugenia is a fragile butterfly, while Matty is a worker ant). But it is also foreshadowing since there is something quite not right in the Alabaster family home. This is a place where the servants turn their faces to the wall when the members of the family pass on the stairs or in the hall. Yet we know that seeing is not always necessary to knowing deep dark secrets.
There is a point in "Angels and Insects" where you have a notion of what would constitute a happy ending, but how and why it comes to pass ends up being a surprise. This is a film where you cannot say too much because that would give away the game. The pace is rather slow, but before our interest can lag there our exquisite little moments in the film, such as when an elaborate program of charades down with tableaus and costumes is enacted for the family. The point this film has to make about the congestive rot of Victorian society has been made before, but this film has the advantage of its stylish conceit as in the end the angels prove to be an illusion and the insects the only reality.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Mark Rylance acting. A. S. Byatt story. Sounds like a sure-fire hit. Unfortunately this was not the case in my opinion.

Whereas I realize that the Adamson character (Rylance) was meant to be rather straight laced, I do think it was overdone. Unlike the characters in the story that project humanity onto insects, I felt I was merely observing the characters actions with no intuition of their feelings. The revelations that I assume were meant to shock, did not seem shocking at all as I did not particularly care what happened to the observed characters.

There were a number of elements such as bright colours on the dresses that were obvious comparisons between the human and the insect world, but these seemed too obvious and overplayed.

Starting from the story, I would imagine the director would have to choose between a realistic interpretation or more of a fantasy approach. I have the impression the director never made his mind up which path to take.

This film is rated 18. I guess that is due to the story rather than the presentation - although there is some nudity and sexual activity I would not class the images as particularly shocking these days. I wonder if the film would still have received an 18 certificate if there was no nudity.

I rate this film as 2 stars. I watched it to the end - otherwise I might only have only have given it one star.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 October 2014
Very good film, love Mark Rylance great actor and Very Good Looking Too!
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 27 July 2006
The problem with this film is you never really believe in the characters; you don't get the sense this is a real Victorian family. Therefore, I don't agree that the film is a serious portrayal of dissolute behaviour among the upper classes.

The film-makers obviously intended for the characters to look unnatural, in an attempt to amplify the storyline by injecting a general sense of unease. However, it doesn't work. The faces of the female characters look physically gaunt and sallow. Patsy Kensit looks barely human, and is not in the least appealing. Kristin Scott Thomas, on the other hand, gives a good performance and just about manages to overcome her strange and harsh visage.

The male characters' physical appearance is more natural, but they then suffer from poor oratory. Douglas Henshall struggles with his accent, and labours his lines. Hence, he comes across as too mannered and nervous. Mark Rylance is so deadpan, you wonder if he's about to nod off standing up.

To cap it all, by halfway through, you can easily guess the outcome of the story; thus killing any real sense of drama or suspense.

Worth watching if you have nothing else to do.

Alternatively, if you are looking for a wholly believable and gritty Victorian drama, I recommend "Jude".
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Yes, his performance is very wooden, but his character needs to be that of someone very naive.

It is a slow storyline, but it sucks you in and has a happy ending.

Yes, I too saw it coming, the affair and the ending,

Les.
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