HOUSE OF ANGELS has proved a considerable success in Sweden, lauded by the critics, awarded at festivals and breaking box office records. It's a piece of summery fluff that, if one is in a tolerant mood, is as easily digestible as a cool caramel custard.
Fanny (Helena Bergstrom) is an itinerant cabaret artist who comes to a small Swedish village to claim an inheritance left her by a grandfather she never knew. Her flamboyant, hedonistic appearance with her gay friend, Zac (Rikard Wolff), bestirs all the natives to outbursts of envy, pique, and
blind adoration. Fanny is at first taken by the beauties of the countryside and her sudden windfall of an estate, angelically unaware of the intensity of the antagonism brewing in the more conservative townspeople. An ugly, vituperative outburst by her chief nemesis, the aptly named Mrs. Flogfalt
(Viveka Seldahl), however, forces a showdown in which the villagers are revealed in their scheming avarice, the mighty are humbled, and even the secret identity of Fanny's father is revealed.
Ingrid Bergman was never so triumphantly alluring or funny as she was playing the Creole adventuress Clio Dulaine in the 1945 SARATOGA TRUNK. Something of her mischievous spirit infects the performance of her diminutive countrywoman Bergstrom, the chief attraction of Colin Nutley's HOUSE OF
ANGELS. The film's smooth, summer-of-love theme of tolerance and goodwill towards the non-conformists of the world seems as modish and inconsequential as the current revival of bell bottoms and platform shoes, a yearning for a purer, more innocent kind of outrage and way of being. Nutley has
framed this pastoral frolic in mouthwatering scenes of high Scandinavian summer: woodsy bike rides, skinny-dipping in lakes, fetes champetres accompanied by the most sparkling white wine. Luckily, he has an accomplished cast of eccentric charmers who go a long way toward putting over this
diverting, if derivative, conceit.
The opening scene is a rather misleading one of a glamorous nightclub featuring Fanny's Dietrich-like mother, who once enthralled the village as completely as has her daughter. More such use of flashbacks might have imbued it with a deeper romantic resonance; instead, we are forced to take Mom's
legendary charisma on faith, from the glowing memory of the men she enslaved. The big denouement--a "radical" performance piece by Fanny & Co. in the town church--is tackily staged and falls flat.
Reine Brynolfsson nearly redeems his role of the twinkling old codger who is one of Fanny's chief conquests. Seldahl, her spectacles forever hovering on the tip of her inquisitive beak, is a memorably amusing harpy, a Swedish variant of an outraged Almodovarian matron. Sven Wollter as her greedy
husband has the kind of comic pomposity perfected by such Hollywood oldsters as Charles Coburn and Henry Kolker. Their none-too-swift sons, one a porn-addicted nerd, the other a bonny bumpkin, are also well cast. Only Wolff seems out of place here. Granted, his character is one of those obnoxious,
dated conceptions of sexual difference, heavy on enigmatic attitude, eyeliner, and sudden spewings of "truthful" bile, but the actor chooses to embrace rather than play against the cliches and the result is repellent. (Adult situations, sexual situations, nudity, profanity.)
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: R
- Review: HOUSE OF ANGELS has proved a considerable success in Sweden, lauded by the critics, awarded at festivals and breaking box office records. It's a piece of summery fluff that, if one is in a tolerant mood, is as easily digestible as a cool caramel custard.… (more)