Synopsis by Judd Blaise
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.
aristocracy, daughter, family, naturalist, Victorian, evolution, love, faith, identity-crisis