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Angels and Insects (1995).

November 30, 2007

The Scoop:
This is one of those art house period pieces that works better for what it means than for what it is — wonderfully acted and beautiful to look at, but ultimately somewhat hollow at its core.

William Rylance plays an awkward 19th century naturalist marries into a proper upper-class English family, prompting a sort of culture clash that draws out an old family secret. Patsy Kensit play his wife, the fragile Eugenia, Douglas Henshall is her oddly possessive brother Edgar, and Kristen Scott Thomas is Matty Crompton, an spinsterish cousin with a love for studying biology.

The storyline, based on A.S. Byatt’s novel “Morpho Eugenio,” is slow and only occasionally compelling, but it raises interesting issues about Darwinian evolution, the human animal and mankind’s place in the natural world. Shots of the gritty natural lives of the insects contrast nicely with the refined civilization of the family and show that we’re not really as far removed from our animal brethren as we like to think. The costume design by Paul Brown strikingly underscores this similarity by mimicking the brilliant markings of the exotic insects, and the cinematography by Bernard Zitzermann wonderfully captures the look of Victorian-era painting.

Best Bit:
The wedding night sex scene between Eugenia and William.

Side Note:
Brown received an Oscar nomination for his costume design here, in what was also his first feature film work.

Companion Viewing:
“The Age of Innocence” (1993).


Take a Look:
The trailer:

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