Angels and Insects (Philip Haas)

Rating: *** (out of ****)

Philip Haas' feature debut, 1993's The Music of Chance, irritated the hell out of me; I can't say whether Paul Auster's heavily allegorical narrative worked as prose, not having read the book, but the screen adaptation crumbled under the weight of its plentiful and pretentious symbolism. Angels and Insects, also based upon a respected work of literature (A.S. Byatt's novella Morpho Eugenia), has some of the same problems, but -- thankfully -- to a far lesser degree, largely because this time events are not so ridiculous that one cannot appreciate them as anything but allegory. The Big Revelation is utterly predictable (unless you're Michael Medved, I guess), and the resolution rather pat and unsatisfying, but a generally creepy atmosphere, lush cinematography, and a handful of excellent performances (especially those of Mark Rylance and Douglas Henshall, neither of whom I'd seen before) make this a worthwhile experience. Still, for his next project, I urge Haas to deviate from his Graduate Thesis approach. I like to think about a film's subtext after the picture ends, not while I'm absorbed in it.