Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Spirit of the Beehive

"The Spirit of the Beehive" (Victor Erice, 1973) Victor Erice is the Terrence Malick of Spain (though to be correct it should be the other way around). His films are precise and planned so carefully that he has made three films since 1972's "The Spirit of the Beehive." "Spirit" tells the story of two children; Father is a bee-keeper, Mother is a repressed housewife. The children go to see a matinee of James Whale's "Frankenstein," which deeply affects the youngest, Ana. She wonders why, in a pivotal scene, the monster kills a young child (in the film it's never seen) and if the monster is real. She's told by her older sister that the monster is a spirit who will come at her call--"Hello, I am Ana." This sets in motion a series of events that juxtaposes life and freedom, identity and society, death and repression. This film was made in the last echoes of the Franco regime and the people walk around in a form of zombie-state, their expressions impossible to read. That the Frankenstein monster is seen in this context as a symbol of life and freedom shows what a palpable symbol it remains, and how malleable.

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