Angels & Insects [1995]

Angels and Insects, an ambitious costume drama, tells the tale of William Adamson, a buttoned-down Victorian explorer (Mark Rylance) who returns to England penniless and dependent on the kindness of his sponsor, Sir Harald Alabaster (Jeremy Kemp). Adamson's intelligence and lower social class endear him to the old man, but Sir Harald's son, Edgar, seems annoyed by his presence. Nevertheless, Adamson falls in love with Sir Harald's daughter, a shy sex kitten (Patsy Kensit), and offers to marry her. A web of sexual politics, true love, and class struggle develops, even as the explorer begins an intriguing study of a nearby ant colony. With encouragement from a dirt-poor Alabaster cousin (Kristin Scott Thomas), Adamson begins to write about the insects, never realizing the parallels with his own life. The film is a puzzle to solve while savoring the beauty of flesh and outlandish, vibrant costumes. Rylance, unknown to most American audiences, is a perfect hero to root for, with his impeccable manners and soothing Scottish tones. Another curious winner from filmmakers Philip and Belinda Haas (The Music of Chance). --Doug Thomas

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