Classic Movie Review: The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) #AtoZChallenge

#AtoZChallenge 2021 April Blogging from A to Z Challenge letter S

Welcome to the Panorama of the Mountains Blogging A to Z Challenge. This year I’m watching and reviewing movies from A-to-Z based on my ongoing Classic Movie Project. Most movies will be featured on one or more of three lists: AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies (USA), The Sight & Sound Greatest Films of All Time (UK), and Cahiers du Cinéma Greatest Films of All Time (France). In some cases, I will be very creative in assigning a Classic Movie to a letter of the alphabet, and in a few cases the movie I watch will not be Classic Movies at all.

Title: The Spirit of the Beehive
Release Date: 8 October 1973
Director: Víctor Erice
Production Company: Elías Querejeta Producciones Cinematográficas S.L. | Jacel Desposito

Set in a small Castilian village just after the Spanish Civil War, The Spirit of the Beehive is a film that captures the intersection of childhood wonder and fantasy with grim realities.  If that description seems to fit Pan’s Labyrinth as well, then you won’t be surprised that Guillermo del Toro drew inspiration from this film.  Ana (Ana Torrent) is an adorable 6-year-old with a vivid imagination.  Her father (Fernando Fernán Gómez) is a beekeeper and writes extensively about bees.  Her mother (Teresa Gimpera) writes letters to distant lovers.  Neither of them seem to be all to involved in the lives of their children.

The film begins when a traveling movie show brings Frankenstein to the village.  Ana becomes entranced by Frankenstein’s monster, especially the scene when he kills the little girl. Ana’s older sister Isabel (Isabel Tellería) tells her that “Everything in the movies is fake” and that the monster didn’t kill the girl and that in fact he lives in a nearby sheep shed. Ana visits the sheep shed often and finding a wounded republican soldier hiding there, she brings him food and clothing.

The Spirit of the Beehive is set at the beginning of the Franco regime and was released shortly before Franco’s death. Erice gets a lot of credit for telling a story that is critical of Franco through metaphor and thus evading censorship.  But beyond the plot that I’ve summarized here, much of the film is more of a tone poem capturing the everyday wonders and fears of a young child.  It’s beautifully filmed and Ana Torrent’s performance is remarkable.

Rating: ****