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The House of the Spirits (1993)

R | | Drama, Romance | 1 April 1994 (USA)
1:40 | Trailer

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A rancher, his clairvoyant wife and their family face turbulent years in South America in this adaptation of Isabel Allende's best-seller.


Bille August


Isabel Allende (novel), Bille August
12 wins. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Meryl Streep ... Clara
Jeremy Irons ... Esteban Trueba
Winona Ryder ... Blanca
Antonio Banderas ... Pedro
Maria Conchita Alonso ... Tránsito
Vincent Gallo ... Esteban Garcia
Joaquín Martínez ... Segundo (as Joaquin Martinez)
Sarita Choudhury ... Pancha
Glenn Close ... Ferula
Miriam Colon ... Nana
António Assunção António Assunção ... Man at Cattlemarket (as António Assumpção)
Julie Balloo Julie Balloo ... Young Lady
Frank Baker Frank Baker ... Intelligence Officer
João Cabral João Cabral ... Soldier
Carlos César Carlos César ... Ambassador's Driver


Chile, second half of the 20th century. The poor Esteban marries Clara and they get a daughter, Blanca. Esteban works hard and eventually gets money to buy a hacienda, eventually to become a local patriarch. He becomes very conservative and is feared by his workers. When Blanca grows up, she falls in love with a young revolutionary, Pedro, who urges the workers to fight for socialism. It is unavoidable that Pedro and Esteban are pitted against each other. Esteban tries to stop the love affair between Pedro and his daughter by all means possible but soon Blanca becomes pregnant and has a daughter. The void between father and daughter seems unbridgeable when Blanca moves in with Pedro. Written by Mattias Thuresson

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong sexuality, and for violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »



Portugal | Germany | Denmark | USA | France


English | Spanish

Release Date:

1 April 1994 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

La casa de los espíritus See more »

Filming Locations:

Cabo Espichel, Portugal See more »


Box Office


$25,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Meryl Streep and Vanessa Redgrave previously appeared in Julia (1977). See more »


There is a sequence that occurs at Christmas. There is snow on the ground and the characters are dressed for winter. Winter occurs from June to August (approximately) in the countries south from the Equator, like Chile. (Much of the movie was filmed in Denmark.) See more »


[first lines]
Esteban Trueba: It's good to be back.
See more »

Alternate Versions

In France, the opening sequence of the movie is really different than in other countries. The movie is approx. 10 minutes shorter that the other versions See more »


Featured in La noche de...: Drácula de Bram Stoker (1995) See more »


La Cumparsita
Written by Gerardo Matos Rodríguez (as Matos Rodriguez)
Performed by Adalbert Lutter and His Orchestra
Published by G. Ricordi & C.S.P.A., Milano
See more »

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User Reviews

Missed opportunity
1 February 2007 | by mahoendersSee all my reviews

The book on which this movie was based is a wonderful, engaging story of the Trueba family, with a typical South American ambiance, in a way similar to the stories of another great author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The House of the spirits has all the ingredients for a entertaining, gripping and compelling motion picture. The movie however didn't quite live up to my expectations.

What really bothered me was that the chronology of the movie didn't match the book. Clara for example lives through the revolution, while in the book she passes long before the civil war. The most annoying 'error' is that in the movie the storyline of Alba has been replaced by Blanca. I can't understand why it wouldn't have been possible to be true to the book in this feature. Maybe the director thought it necessary for Winona Ryder to play a larger role.

Furthermore, there were little wonderful elements of the book which might have been added to the movie, without much trouble. A single shot of Barabas, Clara's dog, when she marries Esteban. The time when Esteban breaks almost every bone in his body, because of an earthquake. This would have added even more depth to the character, one of Jeremy Iron's finest acting jobs.

I also thought it was a shame that the twins Clara also gave birth to, Jaime and Nicolas, were not included in the script. But because there story lines would have added substantially to the length of the picture and therefore would have made it too long for a regular movie, I understand why they are left out. That might also be the reason why Alba plays just a minor role, because her life is quite intertwined with that of her uncles.

To conclude, movies based on a novel rarely give a satisfying image and for people who haven't read the book it will probably be quite entertaining. If you have read the book, however, it is hard to accept the choices made in the script and you end up feeling disappointed with the result.

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