The Haunted House (film)

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German title The haunted house
Original title The haunted house
Country of production Germany , Denmark , Portugal
original language English
Publishing year 1993
length 141 minutes
Age rating FSK 12
Director Bille August
script Bille August
production Bernd Eichinger
Edwin Leicht
Dieter Meyer
Mark Rosenberg
Paula Weinstein
music Hans Zimmer
camera Jörgen Persson
cut Janus Billeskov Jansen

Das Geisterhaus (International Distribution Title: The House of the Spirits ) is a German-Danish-Portuguese film drama from 1993. Directed by Bille August , who wrote the screenplay based on the novel Das Geisterhaus by Isabel Allende . The main roles were played by Meryl Streep , Glenn Close , Jeremy Irons , Winona Ryder and Antonio Banderas .


At the center of this film, set in Chile between the 1920s and 1970s, is Esteban Trueba, a man from the simplest of backgrounds, who comes to fortune and power through hard work as a gold digger and farmer, as a large landowner who fights the labor movement and also fights hardship and relentlessness in his family developed until he was purified by the loss of the people he loved and shaken by the political upheavals of the 1960s and 1970s.

Esteban Trueba comes from a humble background and lives in Chile . He falls in love with Rosa del Valle, daughter of a well-to-do family who agrees to the wedding. However, he first wants to build up an existence as a gold digger in order to be able to offer her an adequate standard of living. When he encounters a profitable vein of gold and returns to marry Rosa, she becomes the victim of a poisoning attack that was actually aimed at her father, a politician.

Clara, Rosa's younger sister, foresaw the death of her sister due to her own supernatural abilities and now falls into silence because she feels guilty. Only years later, when Esteban, who has now made his fortune as a farmer, asked for her hand, did she break her silence. She marries Esteban.

At the same time, at Clara's insistence, Esteban takes his sister Férula, who has been looking after her seriously ill mother for years and has therefore remained single, into his family. Férula and Clara develop a warm relationship.

The marriage is happy at first. The daughter Blanca is born. Even as a child, she developed a close relationship with Pedro Tercero García, the son of Esteban's foreman . Esteban, who disapproves of this approach, sends Blanca to boarding school . During the holidays and after finishing school, however, Blanca continues to meet in secret with Pedro, who has now become a class-conscious worker and calls on the other workers to revolt against the landowners. Esteban then chases him off his Las Tres Marías farm.

As a result, several people leave Esteban.

When Esteban discovers Férula and Clara sleeping together in bed after an earthquake and suspects an erotic relationship, he expels Férula from the house. Then Esteban learns of the love affair between Blanca and Pedro; in his anger he beats both Blanca and Clara. Clara, who broke her silence because of him, explains to him that she will never speak to him again and will not do so until she dies. She moves into her parents' house with Blanca.

Pedro, however, flees from Esteban, who had announced that he would kill him if he caught him with Blanca. Then Pedro's father, the foreman, leaves the farm. Esteban is still angry. He promises a reward for clues about Pedro. A clue comes from Esteban's illegitimate son Esteban García, whose mother, the worker Pancha García, raped Esteban as a young man.

But Pedro manages to escape again.

Blanca is pregnant by Pedro and has a daughter, Alba. Esteban, who has since made a career as a conservative to reactionary senator , wants to keep the shame away from the family and marry Blanca to a rich French man in order to legitimize the child. But Blanca refuses and at the same time reminds him that there is another bastard in the family: Esteban García, the son of the worker who was raped by Esteban, whose existence Esteban had always denied.

In 1970 the Conservatives, who had been in power for 20 years, lost the elections against the Unidad Popular , an electoral alliance of the left parties. For Esteban, now an old man, a world collapses. That is why he initially met the army coup in 1973 with sympathy. But he soon learns that not only has the left government under Salvador Allende been ousted, but that he has also lost privileges. When his daughter Blanca is arrested, his reputation as a senator has no effect. He desperately has to endure Blanca being interrogated, tortured and abused for weeks; this happens mainly through her half-brother Esteban García, who rose up in the army (Esteban himself had financed this career for him to get him off his neck), and who thereby belatedly takes indirect revenge on his father.

The loss of loved ones and the social position cause a radical change in Esteban, which goes so far that he enables Pedro to flee to Canada at the request of Blancas . After Blanca was released from prison, Esteban died on his Las Tres Marías farm. At the hour of his death, Clara appears again.


James Berardinelli praised the film adaptation of the novel on ReelViews , which he described as "very personal". He highly praised the portrayals of Winona Ryder, Glenn Close, Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons.

Roger Ebert criticized the film in the Chicago Sun-Times , which he described as an "intellectualized drama". He praised the portrayal of Winona Ryder, thanks to which the character she played works.

In his review of the film in Der Spiegel , Hellmuth Karasek praised the performance of Meryl Streep, Glenn Close and Jeremy Irons. As a conclusion he writes: "In any case, the 'haunted house' is an impressive achievement in its genre."

“The elaborate film adaptation of Isabel Allende's bestseller novel has beguilingly beautiful landscape panoramas and an extraordinary array of international stars. However, it lacks the exuberant love of storytelling of the original, so that the film freezes in an all too clearly calculated external beauty. "

The film was often criticized because of the numerous changes compared to the original. For example, in Isabel Allende's novel, Alba is the one who is tortured and abused. In the film, Alba's adolescence is not taken into account, instead Blanca takes on her role.

Filming locations and film music

Most of the film was shot in Denmark , with other scenes in Lisbon and Alentejo , Portugal .

The music for the film was created by the film composer and Oscar winner Hans Zimmer . In addition, two other pieces of music can be heard in the film: “ La Paloma ”, a Spanish-Cuban song sung by the Chilean singer Rosita Serrano , and “ La Cumparsita ”, a classic Uruguayan tango melody by the German musician Adalbert Lutter and performed by his orchestra.


In 1994, Bille August won awards at the Danish Robert Festival for directing and scriptwriting , and Janus Billeskov Jansen for editing and Niels Arild for sound.

Bille August also won a prize at the Festival del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano in Havana in 1994 and the golden Guild Film Award.

Hans Zimmer won the German Phono Academy Award in 1994.

The film won the Gilde Film Prize in gold and the golden screen in 1994 . The designer of the costumes Barbara Baum and the producer Bernd Eichinger won the Bavarian Film Prize in 1993 . Bernd Eichinger also won the German Gold Film Prize in 1994 .

The German Film and Media Assessment FBW in Wiesbaden awarded the film the rating particularly valuable.


  • Isabel Allende. The haunted house. The book about the film. Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1993, ISBN 3518387545 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Film review by James Berardinelli
  2. ^ Film review by Roger Ebert
  3. PATRIARCH WITH WOMEN . In: Der Spiegel , October 18, 1993. Retrieved October 14, 2013.
  4. The haunted house. In: Lexicon of International Films . Film service , accessed May 2, 2016 .Template: LdiF / Maintenance / Access used 
  5. Soundtracks for The Haunted House (1993) . Internet Movie Database . Retrieved October 14, 2013.