Of Love And Shadows

on May 10, 1996 by Lea Russo
   Poor Isabel Allende. First Bille August butchers her classic novel "The House of the Spirits." Now director Betty Kaplan and screenwriter Donald Freed have interpreted the author's "Of Love And Shadows" and the result isn't much better. The film is based only on selected pages of Allende's book, with little regard or care for the original work's subtle meanings. The characters, so richly and honestly portrayed on paper, are flatter than refrigerator magnets here, and the formerly interesting story is now convoluted beyond comprehension.
   It is 1973, and General Pinochet rules Chile with a tight Fascist grip. The rich avert their eyes and ears to atrocities; the poor suffer in silence. Oh-so-impossibly beautiful journalist Irene ("Higher Learning's" Jennifer Connelly) has been fortunate, living in the pretty, protective surroundings of the Will of God Manor. Engaged to army captain Gustavo (Camilo Gallardo), she soon falls for sexy photographer/self-professed anarchist Francisco Leal ("Desperado's" Antonio Banderas). Through Francisco, Irene learns about injustice, and together they fight for Chile's freedom.
   There's no logical excuse for this movie's abject failure but, despite a great storyline, a talented cast, a decent budget and lush cinematography, "Of Love and Shadows" doesn't make any sense. There are no real transitions between scenes, which themselves seem to end before they've begun. Many times the audience is left dangling as the story revisits some character whom we have long forgotten. As for political intrigue, the filmmakers show the characters bitching and moaning over the Fascist government yet, except for a couple of morgue shots and a few skeletons, the forces and effects of this evil are never adequately depicted. Those who feel they must see this film should do themselves a favor: read the chapters in Allende's book that the filmmakers forgot to shoot. Starring Antonio Banderas, Jennifer Connelly and Camilo Gallardo. Directed by Betty Kaplan. Written by Donald Freed. Produced by Richard Goodwin, Betty Kaplan and Paul F. Mayersohn. A Miramax release. Drama. Rated R for a scene of strong sexuality, and for some violence. Running time: 109 min
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