Sunday, May 29, 2011


When i first heard The Spirit Of The Beehive described as "Tarkovsky for kids" by the pink smoke's John Cribb i was sold. This film is the perfect example of how one can learn a little bit of history & culture from cinema without necessarily having to reading a book. So the next time someone makes an empty generic statement like; "you cant get that from a movie" or "you cant learn anything from a movie", just use The Spirit Of The Beehive as an example.
Tarkovsky isn't the only filmmaker that rubbed off on Beehive. The film shares many similarities with Terrance Malick's earlier work like Badlands & Days Of Heaven. The use of similar looking landscapes, the cinematography, the music, the lighting and the fact that all three movies (beehive, days of heaven and badlands) are all told from the perspective of a young (female) protagonist. These early films from the 70's eventually went on to influence and inspire more recent works like; Ratcatcher (Lynne Ramsay actually used music from Badlands in Ratcatcher) and George Washington (its a well known fact that David Gordon Green is very much inspired by Terrance Malick). When you place pictures from Bandlands or Days Of Heaven next to Spirit Of The Beehive they almost look like they come from the same film. And too take it even further - Victor Erice, Terrance Malick and even Lynne Ramsay are all pretty elusive, and don't release films as often as the average director.

Terrance Mallick's Bandlands (1973)

The Spirit Of The Beehive (1973)

Terrance Mallick's Days Of Heaven (1976)

Ratcatcher (1999)

George Washington (2000)

The Spirit Of The Beehive is a film with multiple layers. On one layer, you have a film about a young girl who becomes overly fascinated with Frankenstein after seeing it for the first time at a local cinema. Eventually, after being told a lie about the movie by her older sister, she not only becomes fascinated with Frankenstein, but with the idea of ghosts & spirits. On another level, we have a film that symbolizes the rule that Franco had over Spain (like most Spanish films at the time). The Spirit Of The Beehive is also a textbook "coming of age" tale (along with just about every other film mentioned in this blog). And what makes the coming of age aspect so profound in Beehive is that it's told from such an incredibly young perspective. Generally, coming of age films like small change and 400 blows to ratcatcher and george washington are usually told from the eyes of kids aged 8-16. But Anna in spirit of the beehive is only 6 years old. This makes the perspective fresh, untainted and pure.
One of the most iconic scenes of the film shows the two (young) sisters watch a train whiz by them as they almost zone out and stare at it pass by, almost as if they're frozen (the picture at the top of the page). Many people view this scene as a metaphor of the old Spain, ruled by Franco, passing them by leaving behind the "new" Spain or "the future" (represented by Anna and her sister).

As mentioned earlier, Ana becomes very fascinated with the film, specifically with the scene where the young girl, totally oblivious to the fact that she's standing next to an actual monster, sits down and becomes friendly with the monster (a scene what was brought up previously in my 'claire dolan' review, in which i drew comparison to the park bench scene in 'Ghost Dog')...

Spirit Of The Beehive
Ghost Dog

Beehive also went on to have a major influence on Pans Labrynth as well...

As a child, Ana Torrent (whose characters in both films where actually named 'Ana') was somewhat of a symbol for arthouse/political Spanish films...

Spirit Of The Beehive
 Cria Cuervos

There's so many great things about 'The Spirit Of The Beehive'. Its one of the best executed 'coming of age' films to date. Through out the film we see Ana experience a lot of "firsts" (obviously a key elements for a coming of age films). Her first movie at the movie theater, experiencing death for the first time, realizing that she's been lied to for the first time (by her sister). There's also an interesting comment that Victor Erice makes about "family'. In 'Spirit Of The Beehive', never at any point do we see Ana, her sister, her father or her mother in same shot/frame at the same time. Lots of clever and subtle things in this film. Its not for everyone, especially people who bore easily. But i personally think its amazing.


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