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Angels and Insects

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Angels and Insects

Starring: Mark Rylance, Kristin Scott Thomas
Director: Philip Haas
Rated: R
RunTime: 118 Minutes
Release Date: January 1996
Genres: Drama, Romance

*Also starring: Patsy Kensit, Jeremy Kemp, Douglas Henshall, Annette Badland, Chris Larkin, Anna Massey, Saskia Wickham

Review by Pedro Sena
3 stars out of 4

If someone wants to make a point, they will take you the length of something, anything, and then spring it on you. This film, is such an adventure.

However, this film just has one of those understated feelings, none of the acting stands out, probably because it might give the film away, and for the majority of the film, it has moments that are just trying to "break out" this rather monotonous film, into something else.

To his credit, and the actors, the director does not allow any of the film to fall into anything except his complete story. The insect is friendly, until the tide changes, and then it attacks. This film does the same. The story centers around a man that has just come back from the Amazon, in what has been found out to be a disastrous mission for a group of scientists. This one managed to survive, and has found his way back home to England. He ends up taking up a stay with a rather generous rich man, who has similar interests, and who decides to sponsor this scientist of insects.

All is fine, until the younger brother gets upset because this outsider, a commoner at that, has found his way into the family. As time continues, we find that the scientist has an interest in one of the family's daughters, one who apparently has suffered a rather unfortunate fate. She was married and her husband promptly dies, in what may be considered odd circumstances, which we never learn about. It's the upper class.... they get away with a lot of things. What these might be is another question. But a hint does show itself one time when the younger brother challenges the scientist to a duel, which is refused.

Eventually, this marriage takes place. The scientist continues his studies, and his helper is none other than his wife's sister, whose interest in his profession is uncannily similar to his. She is an astute observer. And with her help, a book gets published, and a successful working agreement starts. The marriage lasts. And after a few hints, and moments here and there, and an inordinate amount of children, the damn finally breaks. In the form of a child that may have been some sort of revenge on the younger brother, by a previous maid.

And the film takes on the vicious attitude that ant colonies can take with each other. All of a sudden, the civilized are the real insects, and the film comes to a quick resolution and ending.

This is an acting showcase. The people in it have to maintain their space as well as they can, and never hint at anything. Of course, this was the way in the Victorian age anyway, where everything happened behind closed doors and the maids and everyone else in the house was not exactly not a part of it.

A very well directed film, although slow, the lines are delivered with the same deliberateness that the ant colonies work. It seems to be its main theme. And as such, the film ends up developing a statement about who is the real savage and the angel. The innocent whose live it is anyway, or those who ought to know better, and do nothing about it. Very few films will do this correctly without giving it away. There are hints, yes... looking back on it. But they are so subtle that we really make nothing of it... the film really makes no reason for us to pay attention to those moments. They seem so natural, a part of the natural evolution of things... until we find out what was really behind it all.

Excellent film, very well directed and beautifully thought out. But the ending may really shake one up. It is brutal in ways more than one.

Copyright 1997 Pedro Sena

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