Friday, February 27, 2015


Director Victor Erice's 1973 Spanish language film depicts the hushed darkness, rotting earth tones and stunted emotions of a impoverished town during the final days of General Franco's forty year dictatorship. Using the conceit of cinema as transformative experience,  especially in the murky motivations of children,  this film takes another as its starting point (James Whale's 1931 feature, FRANKENSTEIN,  specifically the gentle,  but emotionally devastating scene of the Monster and little girl near the lake). This is a film with little dialogue,  but atmosphere aplenty that wraps around the viewer like a ragged diary,  time and memory slowly aroused,  but only partially revealed. It is also about obsession,  whether the father's glass beehive,  the mother's absent lover,  or the youngest daughter Ana caught in the snare of mystery, be it cinematic (Frankenstein's Monster) or real (the anti-Franco rebel taking refuge in a deserted farmhouse). It is also a subtly political film that somehow got past Franco's censors with its depiction of a small town whose inhabitants were  crushed by right-wing ideals that favored ideology over individuals. THE SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE touches hearts and minds without the sentimentality and candied resolution Hollywood would surely bring to such material. This must certainly have been Guillermo del Toro's film school primer.

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