Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Spirit of the Beehive (1973)

Widely regarded as a masterpiece of Spanish cinema, this allegorical tale is set in a remote village in the 1940s. The life in the village is calm and uneventful -- an allegory of Spanish life after General Franco's victory in the Spanish Civil War. While their father (Fernando Fernán Gómez) studies bees in his beehive and their mother (Teresa Gimpera) writes letters to a non-existent correspondent, two young girls, Ana (Ana Torrent) and Isabel (Isabel Telleria), go to see James Whale's Frankenstein at a local cinema. Though they can hardly understand the concept, both girls are deeply impressed with the moment when a little girl gives a flower to the monster. Isabel, the older sister, tells Ana that the monster actually exists as a spirit that you can't see unless you know how to approach him. Ana starts wandering around the countryside in search of the kind creature. The film received critical accolades for its subtle and masterful use of cinematic language and the expressive performance of the young Ana Torrent. ~ Yuri German, All Movie Guide

Theatrical Feature Running Time: 99 mins
The Spirit of the Beehive (1973)

Maybe it was just too subtle for me but I was deeply disappointed with the film as the title alone held my imagination to such lofty levels. This was not to say the two young stars were not excellent in their roles, it was more like the there was no "spirit" and very little of the actions of the beehive. The only beehive actions I could see was the viewing of the film but the participants were not "busy as bees" but just passive viewers, and also when the towns people found the fugitive and shot him with a hail of gun fire. We never do find out why he was running away or what his crime was.

It is worth remembering the scene taken from Frankenstein (1931 film), and part of the scene description:
It {the monster} then has a short encounter with a farmer's young daughter, Maria, who asks him to play a game with her in which they playfully toss flowers into a lake and watch them float. The monster enjoys the game, but when they run out of flowers, tragedy occurs. Because of his defective brain, the monster thinks the little girl will float, so he picks her up and throws her into the lake, and the girl drowns. Realizing he has made a terrible mistake, the monster walks away feeling troubled and remorseful. This drowning scene is one of the most controversial in the film, with a long history of censorship.

The older of the two daughters tells the other one that the young girl in Frankenstein and the monster were not really killed. It was just fake, but this does little to reduce the fear and anxiety in them.

Even though this was highly rated, I just can't give it more than an average rating. Nothing to really peak my interest. The version I watched had the same jacket cover as Blockbuster shows. It included 2 disks and a small pamphlet. The second disk was for special features including long interviews.
From the pamphlet with link:
The Spirit of the Beehive: Spanish Lessons By Paul Julian Smith
Released in 1973, in the dying days of General Franco’s forty-year dictatorship, The Spirit of the Beehive soon established itself as the consummate masterpiece of Spanish cinema. Yet, strangely, many of the gifted artists who collaborated on Víctor Erice’s first feature, an atmospheric exploration of a child’s experience in a bleak village just after the civil war, have had troubled afterlives. Erice himself, acclaimed by critics as Spain’s greatest auteur, has completed only two features since (The South, another period drama, in 1982, and Quince Tree of the Sun/Dream of Light, a documentary on a painter, in 1983). The career of Luís Cuadrado, the creator of the luminous cinematography, was tragically cut short by blindness. Ana Torrent, the six-year-old star, remains haunted by the role that made her a Spanish icon. In 2003, on the thirtieth anniver­sary of The Spirit of the Beehive’s release, she posed for the poster for the San Sebastián Film Festival. Re-creating a scene she had shot so many years before, she stood solemn faced on the railway tracks. Erice has said, "When I’ve finished a film, it’s no longer mine—it belongs to the people." Surely few films have had such an enduring effect on both their makers and their audience.

The picture reminded me that the father spent a great deal of time with the two daughters in the fields talking about poisonous mushrooms. Many of the actions seem to portent possible fateful endings for the movie. Ana also goes back and finds one of the mushrooms and looks at it for a while.

On the more close to home aspects, a woman in our complex supposedly killed her daughter yesterday. Ventura mother arrested for allegedly killing 8-year-old daughter | L.A. NOW | Los Angeles Times

No comments: