The scene reminds me of Bela Tarr’s Satantango, in which the little girl kills the cat before killing herself. I can’t imagine Tarr not paying tribute to The Spirit of the Beehive in that scene.
Like everything else in El espíritu de la colmena, the cat scene is full of esoteric symbolism. The key to that scene is in the painting in the father’s study. Straight after Isabel’s cat choking we see the lion and St. Jerome in that painting. My short explanation is that the cat choking is about overcoming the fear of death. Death as symbolised by a fearsome beast (the lion in the painting, from which the camera pans to a more obvious symbol of death: the skull). After the beast is slain or otherwise neutralised (St. Jerome tamed the lion by removing a thorn from its paw) the power of that beast can be appropriated as a spiritual ally to further one’s own path. This is a common theme in mythology (Heracles, Sampson etc.). It’s not actually clear whether the blood drawn belongs to Isabel or the cat, but assuming it’s the feline’s blood, Isabel smears it on her lips to adorn herself with the power of the animal, in the same way that a rabbit’s foot is a good luck charm, or that shamans wear animal feathers, hides, or bones.
I explain the the scene in more detail (such as its Tarot symbolism) and the symbolism of the films’ other scenes in a lengthy piece over on IMDb:
oooo o.o This sounds relaly good. Im not reading anything past the first post. I may have to blind buy this… :S
I fell in love with the feel of this movie. I couldn’t shake the feel for a couple days, which i love.
It’s worth it, Miss Anonymous.
What a good film!
Was I the only one who completely missed any political undertones? I knew nothing going into it, and was so impressed I immediately watched it a second time. Actually what may have impressed me the most was the fact that it wasn’t adapted from a great book, the director actually wrote the story with a couple other people. I know that may sound silly, considering how cinematic the film is, but I was so very impressed with the literary depth of the film; the father’s sociological distance towards his bees, the mother’s apparent adultery, Ana’s wonder and longing & her sisters almost sadistic playfulness. The movie seemed to be showing how different things are inside the ‘beehive’. It was just such a great look at intellectual categorization vs. passion of the imagination, among other things.
“Even more impressive considering the cinematographer was losing his eyesight during production.”
I wish I temporarily lost my eyesight so I didn’t have to endure this boring film. I really wanted to like it, but the sheer tedium overwhelmed me. I had a double pass to see this film again, but gave it away. Indeed I am magnanimous. Or maybe malevolent—perhaps I should’ve torched it.
As for trading away this film for Hammer Horror, that’s what the automotive folks call “trading up”.
I’m always cautious around people who say “I don’t know what it was…just something about it…”
Usually the same thing people say when gushing about dull old Pedro Costa films.
Personally, I prefer the Spanish film “The Executioner”.
1. Pedro Costa is Portugese not Spanish.
2. Both The Spirit of the Beehive and most Costa’s work (certainly his Fontainhas trilogy) oozes a mysterious narrative quality so you’re almost supposed to feel that the film is working on you but you don’t quite know why. If anything someone saying, ’it’s just something about it…’ is somewhat of a measure of the films success.
3. Beyond that:ReviewReview
If you don’t get a film you can at least read up on why some people do. It’s fine to say ‘the film doesn’t work on me’; ‘I don’t find it as beautiful’ (or what have you) ‘as others seem to’. But calling a film, any film, ‘boring’ and only backing it up with the cheapest grade school logic is to announce to the world, ‘I didn’t pay attention! I didn’t actually try to engage with the film at all and am only able to understand a film that gives me all of its details!’ If you can indeed find any logic at all in Mr. Vanselow’s critique of the film… In fact all he really says about the film is its boring and then goes on to make really lame jokes (nothing to do with the film), talk about the people that must like ‘this type of film’ as if he could know an intangible like that (nothing to do with the film), and talk about another film that has nothing to do with anything… I’ll take someone saying this film is a ‘mystical allegory that takes hold of you for reasons you may not quite fully comprehend’ over ’it’s boring’ followed by the spewing of pretentious (that’s right I said it) crap all over my computer screen.
Personally, I prefer Aquarello and NEH because now I have to clean my computer screen thanks to Mr. Vanselow.
I realize opinions are opinions, everyone’s got one, etc, but if you find this film boring, I really, REALLY don’t understand you. And Mark Vanselow, some things are so mysterious and beautiful that they ARE hard to verbalize. What’s so strange about that?
What does any of that rambling, nonsensical crap have to do with Spirit of the Beehive, Mr. Vanselow? Because if it has nothing to do with the film (which it doesn’t) you pretty much prove my point.
You have nothing to say about films (or in the very least this film), because you have no idea what you’re talking about, and so instead you try to poke fun at people you’ve never met. The problem is you, again, have no idea what you’re talking about so you just sound unfunny, and mean spirited.
Anyway, I’d much rather talk about Spirit of the Beehive then trade jabs with you, I’m at least better than that. Provide some concrete criticisms of the film and I’ll counter and then we can have an actual discussion on the film… or act like a six year old and try (and fail) again to make fun of me and I shall ignore you.
As Schwartz asserted: lets please stay on topic. Spirit of the Beehive surely does not deserve a thread arguing about Pedro Costa’s origins.
Has anyone read Maeterlinck’s The Life of the Bee? It’s sort of a poetic natural history, from the excerpts I’ve read, and was one of the inspirations of the movie. The treatise written by the father is in imitation of Maeterlinck’s style (or it may be a direct quotation, I’m not sure). That passage from Spirit of the Beehive makes an interesting contrast with the beehive passage in Henry V (the “singing masons”).
Incidentally, Saura’s Elisa Mia Vida (different director, same producer) is a second cousin to Spirit of the Beehive. The original script for SotB told the story in flash back from the grownup Ana’s point of view. Saura later took up the idea Erice rejected.
Just watched this for the umpteenth time. (I used to keep count, but I’ve lost track). I’m obsessed. This film is a film that truly rewards multiple viewings. I feel like I could watch it constantly for the rest of my life and still find new things to appreciate in it.
This is the still from it I have in my room. There are more visually beautiful shots in the film, but this one always fascinates me, especially after I heard Erice’s words on it where he says that this is a completely real reaction from Ana Torrent watching Frankenstien, and states that it is “the most important moment I have ever captured on film.”
Love this film very much. Which is not a very descriptive statement but for right now it’s enough.
:( I still have to see it…
Does anyone think that the scene from the frame Rock and Bull posted, is very similar to Kieslowski’s Doubl Life, when Veronique is watching the marionette player in the schoolhouse with all the children? This just came to me after seeing this frame. Thoughts?