Angels & Insects (1995)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Erotic Drama, Period Film  |   Release Date - Jan 26, 1996 (USA)  |   Run Time - 116 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom, United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by 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.