There is something mystical about this Spanish film that meshes talk of beehives with traintracks, Frankenstien, & wild mushrooms, and weaves it altogether in a golden hue.
I never know what I felt while watching it, but I know I felt something strong, & afterward I never know how to explain the feeling, perhaps because that mysterious mood it sets is one of wonderment, the bliss of innocence we’ve all grown so far away from.
I couldn’t agree more, Nathan. It’s an enchanting, entrancing, haunting film that takes me to a dreamlike state – perhaps that lost state of innocence to which you refer. It also boasts THE most amazing performance I’ve ever seen from a child actor, wide-eyed wonder without a hint of pretense, warmly wrapped in that “golden hue” you so aptly describe. I’m sure it’s no accident that the story’s catalyst is the appearance in this remote village of a traveling cinema, a communal cocoon that gives flight to imagination and bathes its audience in the transformative power of film.
It’s one of those films I want to like more than I actually do. I’d still like to see some more Erice.
Hey, if anyone here could scan the actual case DVD cover artwork (Front and Back) I would appreciate it. Won this from a members ebay auction out of the boxed Janus collection, and it only came with the jewel case. I want to display this in a DVD case with the artwork, but need a scanned image for a DVD Case. I like my films to look good on the shelf. If anyone can help, please email it to: email@example.com
I did not care for the film the first time I saw it, but after a second viewing I can understand the claim of it being called a masterpiece. This has been the case for me with many films, including Once Upon a Time in the West and most of Antonioni and Bresson’s films. Spirit of the Beehive shows a village under the thumb of the Franco regime, but mainly concentrates on a fractured family. Both the mother and father have a lifeless marriage and live in their own worlds. Ana has been greatly affected upon viewing Frankenstein and listening to the suggestions of her older sister that the spirit of the Frankenstein monster does exist and will appear when she calls upon him. After the soldier whom Ana thinks is the spirit of Frankenstein has disappeared, Ana believes it is her father’s fault. Indeed, Ana’s innocent world has been taken away from her by adults, just like those who opposed Franco’s regime (including Ana’s parents) have had their hopes and dreams shattered as well. The ending is seemingly hopeful however, as the mother is seen showing affection towards her husband and Ana still believes that the spirit will appear again if she calls him. She has not lost her innocence yet. This is all handled very subtly and and the film demands repeat viewings to unravel it’s great power.
Does the symmetric cinematography of this film remind anyone else of Wes Anderson’s work, or, perhaps more fittingly, the obsessively sterilized work of Kubrick?
In a way, yes. The cinematography is very similar. But I think the director’s intent was more to show passivity of children, and he employed long shots with little unnecessary emotion.
Can anyone think of how the beehive is a part of the childhood story? Does it relate to the innocence of childhood shown in the rest of the film at all?
i see no similarites, symmetric or otherwise, to Kubrick, and certainly not to Anderson.
Beehive is unto itself, incomparable. It has a singularity to it. A tone unlike all others before & after.
If symmetry is our only boundary for comparison, then we can lump together a decent amount of formalists’ whose work bears no resemblance to Erice’s either.
& Scott, I’m not sure if i can extract a metaphor from the beehive speech to the childrens’ situation.
I’d have to watch it again.
Can anyone find the text of the fathers’ monologue?
I think this movie gives you a feeling of once again having the sense of wonder and innocence we once had as children. A feeling long since forgotten in many of us. Emotions that are lacking and practically extinct in the world today. I think that is why the film gives you a strange feeling. It is kind of like deja vu, I have never seen anything else that captures this magic. That is why it is one of my favorite films.
Ana’s eyes are heartbreaking. she is perfect, really.
the only word that does this film justice: “lush.”
I was re-watching the beginning of this at lunch yesterday (since it’s on this website for free), and I have to hand it to these guys – Cuadrado and Erice – they really understood how to film in color. I don’t know how influential/obscure this film was, but the cinematography is very impressive.
Even more impressive considering the cinematographer was losing his eyesight during production.
Just watched this last night and have to agree about the cinematography. It’s stunning. In the accompanying documentary there’s lots of discussion of how the director and cinematographer used artists like Vermeer to compose the shots, and almost every frame of this haunting film looks like it could be a painting. Mesmerizing and beautiful.
The red lunchbox, the (sounds of) silence, Ana Torrent. So utterly perfect.
The whispers at night about los espiritus invoked childhood memories- of my sister’s lies.
The first time I watched this, I was distracted by something else and didn’t really pay attention in the beginning. By the time I got to the end I started to pay more attention to it and was angry with myself for not focusing more because I realized how special it was. I immediately watched it again and definitely got that feeling Neh described.
Beautiful. Ana Torrent is mesmerizing. The scene with Isabel and the cat was probably my favorite scene.
Not one unnecessary shot and each shot filled with beauty. An amazing film that was perfectly executed.
BEEHIVE is almost too beautiful to bear, but unlike with so many other pretty pictures, there is also a depth. A sad, broken family. And the children, the eyes of the film, seem to arrive in this world from some cinema heaven.
He made another film that is its equal, and may be superior in some ways: QUINCE TREE OF THE SUN is one of its translated titles. A “documentary” about the Spanish realist painter, Antonio López Garcia. It wants some patience to watch. The patience of the artist — he works on his painting of the quince tree through four seasons, the leafs finally falling, the fruit shriveling. And there are some fictional touches to give the whole the feel of a movie. It is wonderful, and so far as I can tell, not yet available on DVD in the U.S. zone.
Spirit of the Beehive remains the best from Spain- and for all the qualities already mentioned, its intimacy, sense of wonder, superlative performance by Ana. Oh, her whispered bedtime conversations with her sister, the scene with the cat…enchanting indeed. Erice achieves something magical and miraculous with Ana and the film overall, and yes it grows with further viewings. As for Quince Tree Sun i must admit i found it less than enthralling when it came out but having since discovered just how good Lopez Garcia is (one of the very best) i might get more from it now.
I just traded this DVD yesterday for the Hammer Horror Series DVD. Haha. The monstrous irony…
I discovered Spirit of the Beehive last night as I am working my way through the Essential Art House collection this winter and am now up to the S’s.
I was struck by:
1. the constant tension and edginess that haunted the film. The well in particular loomed very ominously.
2. having just watched Satantango I guess I was keyed into the scene where the cat is tortured (minor compared to Tarr’s scene), and the long fixed camera shots of the sheepfold. Not making comparisons, just saying Tarr and Erice remind me of each other a bit.
3. the gorgeousness of the light, especially in the breakfast scene, on the faces of the sisters.
4. the subtlety of the backstory — the lover in Nice, the age of the husband, the disappearances, the arrivals.
“Someone to whom I recently showed my glass beehive,
with it’s movement like the main gear wheel of a clock-
Someone who saw the constant agitation of the honeycomb,
the mysterious, maddened commotion of the nurse bees over the nests,
the teeming bridges and stairways of wax, the invading spirals of the queen,
the endlessly varied and repetitive labors of the swarm,
the relentless yet ineffectual toil, the fevered comings and goings,
the call to sleep always ignored, undermining the next days work,
the final repose of death
far from a place that tolerates neither sickness nor tombs-
Someone who observed these things, after the initial astonishment had passed,
quickly looked away with an expression of indescribable sadness and horror.
—towards the end of this writing it shows the father looking in on his sleeping daughters
and then cuts back to him at his desk crossing out the last line.
This movie if for narrow minded eggheads who have an overactive imagination. The film
appeals for only eggheads with Masters degrees who could say something stupid
like “Ana is a sadist” and the eggheads peers would applaud politely and comment
how deep he/she is..what a bunch of crap
Is this anyone else’s favorite film? Maybe I’ll change my mind someday, but I’ve seen it for the first time this week and I can’t believe how saturated in enigmatic symbolism this film is. I don’t know, I can’t keep gushing about it, but I was blown away like no other film has done to me in quite some time. After seeing it for the third time now, I keep finding more and more meaning. I suppose that’s true of most decent films, but this Spirit of the Beehive is definitely special for me. It’s left a huge impression on me that I feel will be with me for a long, long time, and I can’t define how. Anyone else feel similar? Some films that make me feel almost as intensely as this but in a different way are Mirror, Elephant Man, Mulholland Dr., Andrei Rublev, The Color of Pomengranates, I can’t think of much else. It’s not as far out or blatantly mystical as alot of films I’m into, but this one gets deeper inside me at the moment. Are there any films that make you feel like Spirit of the Beehive makes you feel?
Victor Erice is certainly a warmer director than Kubrick was. Kubrick often detached himself from the sentimental factor to flesh out the raw basic emotions of mankind. Erice has a more humane quality to him. “The spirit of the beehive” also benefits from the talent of Javier Aguirresarobe, a great cinematographer that worked quite a lot to convey Erice’s sense of atmosphere. I’d also recommend Erice’s “El sol del membrillo”, a quasi-documentary where he reveals, nevertheless, his peculiar worldvision and wonderful eye for the contrast between light and darkness (both physically and psychologically).
I’d like to say something about Spirit of the Beehive (which I saw when my friend checked out that crazy gajillion-disc Janus collection from the library), but I feel like I’d need to see it again to even be coherent about it. I did really like it, however.
@Joe — “Ana is a sadist”
Spain trying to emerge from the numbing deadening repression of Franco. Despite the films being on either side of the time spectrum I think that is their subtext.
I can never stop watching this film. Each time I watch it, I see more things. It starts with The film Frankenstein coming into town. And this to me is one of it’s masterful ideas. It STARTS with the film, so we, the viewers have absolutely no idea what the two main characters-Ana and Isabelle-were like before. We ASSUME Ana was a quiet and innocent child, but was she? And what about Isabelle. The film seems to have almost turned her evil. But has it? Has it really? We will never know. The film contains many examples of this type of thing. We don’t really know what is up with the father who is shown writing strange passages on paper about a beehive. Or what about the music watch. In a way, it makes us feel like Ana. We are innocent and confused. We understand the whole of the movie, but not all the little bits. It helps us understand Ana, and oddly, also Isabelle. We see her do strange things, but she isn’t evil. We know she isn’t. Perhaps this is because we look at her with the innocent lens the film hands us. We find try to find the good in her. This is just my reason for loving the film. I’ve read others reviews, and they have different reasons. To me, that is the sign of a great film. This is a work of art that can be viewed on many, many different levels. It’s just wonderful.
Can someone tell me what their analysis of the scene with Isabel and the cat is? Is she trying to strangle the cat? Why does she ask what’s wrong with it? Is she trying to be some kind of Dr. Frankenstein herself – taking life only to give it again?
i think the scene of the girl choking a cat symbolizes a girl choking a cat. one of those irrational spiteful things kids do. this film really captures the mind of a child without trying too hard. she does seem annoyed by how inert the cat is and maybe wants to get a reaction, which fits with the big empty house with a man and wife who don’t interact with each other or bond with their children. when the father doesnt confront ana about the watch, and just pulls it out for her to see; then he lets her run away before his very eyes, i wanted to give him a good choking and shout – wake up!