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194 - Spirit of the Beehive (1973) 
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Post 194 - Spirit of the Beehive (1973)
Oh my god, I do this as a journey of discovery. i know that i'm unlikely to have jaw dropping moments at the weekly releases at the local cinema. But here it seems to happen with amazing frequency. I guess that if you set out to see the greatest films of all time you should expect to encounter a few goodies.

I knew nothing of this movie except that it might feature bees and that it is considered on the greatest 200 movies ever made. let's just think about that this means. We are not talking about the top ten from the US last year but the whole world from the last 90 years. A list where only 400 American films even get a look in. I'm a climber and in these term we're in the Himalayas and it's freakin' high!

Let me simply say that this is a great film and that anyone seriously into movies should check out. There are many reasons to see it.


We are in a tiny village in Spain in 1940 and the mobile cinema arrives to show Boris Karloff's Frankenstein. the village congregates and we see two kids, eyes wide open, absorbing the horrors of James Whale's masterpiece.

The film has a profound effect on one of them and it increasingly effects her life. Meanwhile dad plays with his bees. I'm trying to be oblique about the story and the characters because, as always it's best experienced with little knowledge.

The tone of the film is best described as Ingmar Bergman meets Terence Malick. there is a slow thoughtful progression from Frankenstein and the characters motivations and behavior deservedly receives a thorough examination (Bergman). This translates into an almost dream like reality that is filmed in amazing "honey" like hues and composition that evoke Malick.


There is another reason to see this movie. I strongly think that the film contains the greatest performance by a child actor in any film I have ever seen. the hardest acting of all is not when there's dialog or action a plenty but when there's nothing for you to hang on to. When your mere presence has to communicate to the viewer. Ana Torent has almost nothing to play with but generates a performance that will draw you in and instantly identify with her plight.

Anyone who thinks Haley Joel Osment is the best needs to see this to get a serious reappraisal.

I've already mentioned the cinematography. Scene after scene appear like prize winning still shots perfectly lit and composed.

Now add in a political allegory where the bee hive represents Spain. I'm not going there apart from to say that this film has serious depth beyond artistic beauty.

I know nothing of the director, cinematographer or actors. But I do know that you will see a great film. A dead cert 9 and a potential 10. i need to ruminate.


Fri Jun 03, 2011 12:31 am
Post Re: 194 - Spirit of the Beehive (1973)
This is an absolute 10 for me. It's very slow (like that's ever stopped me!), but you're right Rob, when you say Ana Torrent keeps the film grounded. Ana is something of an enigma, as she does not always act how you "expect" her to, but at the same time is instantly relatable, and her character is one of the few utterly and completely fascinating characters of the cinema screen. Everything she does is magnetic, especially through the lens of the film as a whole. And that's ignoring the filmmaking style itself, completely subjective but compellingly so, where every bit of information we are given implies so much more. And the tone of it, the feel, is so completely unique, sort of like a children's fantasy filtered through an art film filtered through a solemn, Bergman-esque chamber drama. It's a remarkable achievement, and one I suggest you all search it out if that sounds at all appealing to you.

As far as the director, Victor Erice, goes, he did direct two other features, both apparently very good and (I think) both on the top 1000 list. His second film, El Sur, which came out 10 years after Spirit, at 95 minutes long is apparently half as long as Erice wanted it to be originally, but his funding fell out and he had to release the film incomplete. I've heard it's still excellent. His third film, The Quince Tree Sun, came another decade later is also apparently quite excellent. I haven't seen either of his other two either, but they've been on my list for some time. Send me a PM when/if you watch them Rob (again, I think they're both on the top 1000, although that's worth double checking. I know El Sur is on my list, but I use the 2008 version), and I'll be sure to bump them up on my priorities list so we can talk about them.

Tue Jun 07, 2011 5:49 pm
Post Re: 194 - Spirit of the Beehive (1973)
Playing on TCM 6/20 @ 2am EST

Thu Jun 16, 2011 10:02 pm
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