I last watched this in theaters so my memory was fading. The first thing I forget about a movie is the ending. So I know Spider (Ralph Fiennes) is in a post-asylum halfway house remembering his childhood, when his mom was killed by his dad (Gabriel Byrne) and replaced by a new woman he picked up at a bar, but after that gets hazy.
John Neville (Gilliam’s Munchhausen), who plays Spider’s fellow patient, died the day before I watched this:
Miranda and her two Spiders:
Well, both women are Miranda Richardson, and young Ralph (often shown with the ghostly presence of full-grown Ralph following behind, peering through a window or hiding around a corner) takes matters into his own hands, tying his spiderweb-strings to the oven knob and turning on the gas after the new woman has passed out. But the woman who lays dead when the emergency crew arrives is Spider’s own mum, his dad weeping over her, uncomprehending.
My favorite comic-relief scene:
The central mystery of the movie seemed to be “how did a seemingly normal, if quiet and string-obsessed, boy turn into this mumbling, shuffling schizophrenic?” and one presumes it has something to do with his dad killing his mom. But the ending reveals that Spider was unhinged from the start. This is the kind of ending that makes you want to rewatch the movie with the thought that Spider’s POV is unreliable as both child and adult, but I blew it by rewatching having forgotten the twist.