Tuesday, 3 January 2012

#18 Spain — The Spirit of the Beehive (1973)

Why I chose this: The first time I heard about this film was when I was still in my cinematic infancy in 2008. It was in the Empire magazine review for Thomas Alfredson's Let The Right One In. At the end of the review, the film was compared to The Spirit of the Beehive, Orphee and Pan's Labyrinth. At the time, Pan's Labyrinth was my favourite film, so the others mentioned were committed to memory. I only attempted to watch The Spirit of the Beehive last year when I took it out of the university library only to find that the DVD was rendered unwatchable by extensive scratches. I returned it and forgot about the incident. A few weeks ago, I took it out of the library again, and found once more that the disk was terribly scratched, despite having told the library to replace it. Luckily, I got a voucher which would give me a £20 Amazon voucher if I opened a free LoveFilm trial, so I obliged and put the film on my list. After a long struggle to watch the film, here are my thoughts.

Making a poignant film where a child is the main character is hard. When one decides to do this, they instantly generate a tightrope of sincerity which they need to be very skilled to stay on. Films of this variety can very easily fall off one side of the line into the "Awwww... Look at the ickle kiddie... Feel sorry for it!" realm of emotional manipulation tactics. Just as easily, it can overbalance into the territory of forced morals and themes, both of which lead to an ultimately shallow work. If, however, the film can make it to the end of the rope (if you'll excuse the extended metaphor), the result can be almost universally relatable. The Spirit of the Beehive is one such film.

The child in question is a young girl called Ana who begins learn life lessons against the backdrop of the Spanish civil war after she sees the film Frankenstien at a travelling cinema. She is played astoundingly well by a seven-years-old Ana Torrent. Her discoveries of death and the world seem as real as her initial innocence and are met with a degree of wonder, confusion and apprehension which only exist in the world of a child. Just thinking about this film revives the tender and serene feelings which go with Ana's discovery of a fugative in a barn and the trepeditious perplexity she displays when her sister plays dead.

The cinematography is beautiful, flooding the frame with dreamlike honey hues and generating sparse pseudo-surreal images. It complements the graceful pace of the film and creates a very relaxing atmosphere.

There is obviously a lot of allegory present, but I'll be honest and say that I didn't pay attention to it as I was utterly captivated by the film's dreamlike quality.

There is nothing which cannot be praised about The Spirit of the Beehive. It remains beguiling, touching, utterly gorgeous and perhaps the greatest film about childhood there is.

Also recommended from Spain:
Talk To Her
The Machinist
Open Your Eyes
Who Can Kill a Child?

1 comment:

  1. No movie appeals to my fascination with crude buildings and barren, windswept plains quite like Spirit of the Beehive. I just wish the wind sound wasn't on a loop in the long windy plain shots, because it's annoying to hear the same wind noise repeating over and over and over and over...