Angels & Insects

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Overview

A 19th-century British naturalist falls in love with the beautiful daughter of a wealthy aristocrat, but he soon discovers that her family's perfect facade disguises unexpectedly grim secrets. Director and co-screenwriter Philip Haas's adaptation of A.S. Byatt's Morpho Eugenio eschews the usual gentility of Victorian period pieces in favor of subtle creepiness. The unsettling mood is emphasized by the film's detailed attention to its protagonist's scientific endeavors, which center on the study of insects and ...
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Overview

A 19th-century British naturalist falls in love with the beautiful daughter of a wealthy aristocrat, but he soon discovers that her family's perfect facade disguises unexpectedly grim secrets. Director and co-screenwriter Philip Haas's adaptation of A.S. Byatt's Morpho Eugenio eschews the usual gentility of Victorian period pieces in favor of subtle creepiness. The unsettling mood is emphasized by the film's detailed attention to its protagonist's scientific endeavors, which center on the study of insects and their behavior. In fact, it is his love of insects that brings William Mark Rylance to the well-heeled Reverend Alabaster Jeremy Kemp, who takes a personal interest in William's welfare when a shipwreck leaves William practically penniless. William is welcomed into the Alabaster home, and he resumes his entomological studies while courting the reverend's daughter, Eugenia Patsy Kensit. Close-up glimpses of insect society parallel this aristocratic world and hint at the dark secrets with which William soon becomes unexpectedly familiar. As in Haas's previous film, The Music of Chance, an unusual, highly symbolic filmmaking approach creates an effective drama, with the potentially detached intellectualism balanced by unusual characterizations and an absorbing attention to detail.
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Michael Costello
Philip Haas's adaptation of A.S. Byatt's witty, ironic take on the social practices of an aristocratic family in Victorian England is a chilling meditation on the insularity of wealth. However, it focuses on William Adamson Mark Rylance, an impoverished naturalist who has returned from a decade in the Amazon. He becomes a long-term guest of Jeremy Kemp, who has an interest in science, and eventually marries his lovely daughter Eugenia Patsy Kensit. Drawing a not too subtle parallel between the habits of the insect societies Adamson studies and the barbaric mores of his highly civilized patrons, Haas throws the assumed hierarchy of species into question. As in a Henry James novel, the characters' behavior is often oblique and their speech elliptical, yet they point the way to an ugly truth that is soon surmised. Rylance is properly dour and dense as a scientist too myopic to divine his fate, Kensit effective as the butterfly fluttering her wings, and Kristin Scott-Thomas brilliantly ironic as the plain, sympathetic Matty Brompton. Paul Brown's stunning costume design, particularly for the women, also plays an integral role in the film's impact.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 4/29/1997
  • UPC: 707729100737
  • Original Release: 1995
  • Format: VHS

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Mark Rylance William Adamson
Kristin Scott Thomas Matty Crompton
Patsy Kensit Eugenia Alabaster
Jeremy Kemp Sir Harold Alabaster
Douglas Henshall Edgar
Annette Badland Lady Alabaster
Claire Brown Child Servant
Graham Glover Pallbearer
John Jenkins Ralph Blackwood
Chris Larkin Robin
Anna Massey Miss Mead
Stephanie Smith Dancer
Walter White Tailor
Technical Credits
Philip Haas Director, Screenwriter
Lidsay Law Executive Producer
Sarah Monzani Makeup
Kerry Orent Producer
Bernard Zitzermann Cinematographer
Celestia Fox Casting
Belinda Haas Editor, Producer, Screenwriter
Colin Nicolson Sound/Sound Designer
Jennifer Kernke Production Designer
Joyce Herlihy Producer
Paul Brown Costumes/Costume Designer
A.S. Byatt Source Author
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 1 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    A Lead you down the Garden Path Surprise Shocker

    After a very slow but very interesting begining -just enough to keep you from getting up and giving up-and just at the point where you are repeatedly asking where is this film going -then when you have let all your guards down and ignored all the clues and hints, prepare to stand up and be hit square in the face with a cast-iron skillet as the film comes to its shocking conclusion. A shocking but fascinating, beautiful film. Deserves its Restricted Rating. This is not a family film. Definitely not recommended for anyone under 18. Even the monotone, boring voice of the leading character, the naturalist, lulls and leads you helplessly and unprepared down the garden path.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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