Summary of the Movie "House of Spirits"

by David Harris

"The House of the Spirits" is a 1993 film based on the novel by Isabel Allende, "La Casa de los Espiritus." The film features a top-notch cast including Jeremy Irons, Glenn Close, Antonio Banderas, Meryl Streep and Winona Ryder. The film was helmed by Danish director Bille August.


The film takes place in Chile in the latter half of the 20th century. The poor Esteban Trueba (Irons) falls in love with Rosa (Teri Polo) but must first earn money before they can marry. Her sister Clara is a psychic and predicts a death in the family. The next day, Rosa is poisoned and dies, and the devastated Clara takes a vow of silence. In the meantime, Esteban works his way up the social ladder. He soon saves enough money to buy a farm but his political leanings become more and more conservative and he is cruel to his workers.


Many years later, Esteban runs into the grown Clara (Streep) at his mother's funeral. He asks for her hand in marriage and for the first time in many years, she speaks again. She moves to Esteban's farm and she gives birth to a daughter they name Blanca (Ryder). As Blanca matures, she falls in love with Pedro (Banderas), a worker on her father's farm. However, Pedro is a leftist revolutionary who is against everything her father stands for.


When Esteban learns of Pedro's politics, the landowner attempts to kill him, but Pedro escapes. Blanca soon learns she is pregnant with Pedro's child and she and Clara flee to escape Esteban's wrath. Years later, Esteban becomes a high-ranking member of the conservative party and when the leftist party wins the election, he orchestrates a coup d'etat where the conservatives gain power, not unlike what happened in Chile to Allende's father, Salvador Allende. Esteban then resolves to hunt down Pedro and Blanca.


"The House of the Spirits" received mixed reviews from critics upon its release and grossed only $6.3 million, according to Box Office Mojo. According to critic Emanuel Levy, the film was a "total misfire, from conception to execution to casting." However, Janet Maslin of "The New York Times" said that the film, despite not reaching the level of the source material, and its glossiness, is still a gritty and moving film.

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