Angels and Insects

by Cathleen Myers

A rare exception: a pretty costume picture with a sinister, ironic twist (which, unlike certain other critics, we won’t be churlish enough to reveal). Based on A.S. Byatt’s novella "Morpho Eugenia" and directed by Philip Haas, who, with Belinda Haas, also wrote the screenplay, the film is so visually lovely with its floating Victorian ball gowns and colorful butterflies that we don’t mind the heavy-handed symbolism as mild-mannered naturalist William Adamson (Mark Rylance) draws parallels between a well-ordered ant kingdom and the seemingly well-ordered upperclass household he marries into, with its workers, drones, and "Queen," the coldly beautiful Eugenia Alabaster (Patsy Kensit), around whom everything revolves. (In case you missed the point, designer Paul Brown dresses Eugenia in an unforgettable queen bee redingote of black and gold). If we discover the shocking secret beneath the Alabasters’ elegant surface before our hero does, it’s because we are neither angels nor idealistic Victorians.

Return to Film Reviews

PEERS Home Page.