Tuesday, August 4, 2015

573. El espiritu de la colmena/The Spirit of the Beehive (1973)

Running Time: 97 minutes
Directed By: Victor Erice
Written By: Victor Erice, Angel Fernandez Santos, Francisco J. Querejeta
Main Cast: Fernando Fernan Gomez, Teresa Gimpera, Ana Torrent, Isabel Telleria, Ketty de la Camara
Click here to view the trailer


I have about fifteen movies piled up on my DVR, all recorded off of Turner Classic Movies. In fact, last night I had to just go ahead and delete Duel In the Sun and The Bad Sleep Well, because they were both two and a half hours and I was running out of available space. Anyway, TCM aired The Spirit of the Beehive and now, here we are...

I'm not sure the film, on the surface, is really ABOUT anything. We begin by being introduced to a family. The father is Fernando (Gomez) a beekeeper and writer. He is married to Teresa (Gimpera) - the two don't seem to have a very loving relationship. Early on, we listen to a narration as Teresa writes a letter to SOMEONE, whom we never meet, but can assume that it's a lover. The couple have two young girls - Ana (Torrent) and Isabel (Telleria) - who both have wild imaginations. After viewing Frankenstein (1931), Ana is curious as to why the monster killed the little girl. Isabel tells her that everything in the movie is fake and that no one died. Isabel then tells her about spirits and tells her that she can speak to the spirit of Frankenstein's monster whenever she wants, by simply closing her eyes and calling him. The next day, Isabel shows Ana an abandoned sheepfold and tells her that this is where the spirit of the monster lives. Ana believes this wholeheartedly, especially after finding a large footprint outside the structure. Later, a fugitive jumps from a moving train, is injured and limps his way to safety inside the sheepfold. The next day, Ana finds him, offers him food and later, her father's coat and pocket watch.

Well, I can't really say I hated it or anything, since it definitely kept me interested and occupied throughout. It wasn't a clock watcher film, nor did I ever particularly want it to end. On the other hand, I didn't particularly want it to go on any longer either, once I realized it was ending. If I had to pinpoint on any certain positives, I'd say the landscape of the picture was, at times, breath taking. There was a particular scene where the family is looking for Ana and their dog runs toward this great stone structure. I don't even know what it was - just this giant piece of architecture in the middle of an otherwise abandoned field, but the sheer sight of it actually made my voice chuck out this sound of awe. Surprisingly even the great site FilmGrab didn't feature this still on their page for this movie...I digress...But yes, the cinematography was great (on a less grand scale than say, Doctor Zhivago - but still great). The way the light from a setting sun cast a glow upon the schoolhouse or even the way the light from that same sunset came through the beehive-esque windows of the family.

In picking on the film and looking for negatives, I just wish there'd been more of a point to the whole film. I mean, I just watched it and yet, if someone were to ask me what it was about, I'm sure I'd sound like a ninny trying to figure out something to say and I certainly wouldn't make it sound all that appealing. It was just about these girls and their imaginations, as far as I could surmise. Now we all know how I feel about children in the lead, so that's another minor reason why I won't shower it wit praise. According to Wikipedia, there's lots of symbolism, tying the family's emotional state and their interactions, with the emotional state of Spain as a whole, during the 1940s. However, my big question is a lot less complicated - what was up with Isabel? Choking a cat, applying blood as lipstick, pretending to be dead...this girl obviously had issues and this was something else that just sort of went by the wayside by film's end.

While definitely not bad, I'm not sure I could really recommend it or anything. I'd say see it and judge for yourself. I think certain members of the audience will take away a lot more than I did, even if they don't GET IT. I think it's a film that will remind some of their own childhood, while leaving others scratching their heads, wondering what the heck they just watched. A "must see", not really - but not particularly one to avoid either.

RATING: 6/10  My old standby, good but not great rating - the '6'. I have officially watched all of the BOOK movies off of my DVR and plan to tackle Seven Samurai next, before finishing off Herzog.


August 4, 2015  5:42pm

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