Friends have tried to get me to watch Victor Erice’s The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) for ages. One even sent me a copy, but I never got around to actually watching it, so I was glad to be forced into doing it by this screening. The upshot of my viewing, however, is a sense of a movie that I admired much more than I actually liked. And I’m not sure why. It is, after all, the story of the impact a traveling movie show has on a young girl, Ana (Ana Torrent), when it brings James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) to her little Spanish town in 1940. It’s visually striking. It evokes something of Buñuel and more than a little of Bryan Forbes’ allegorical Whistle Down the Wind (1961). It looks forward to Alejandro Amenabar’s The Others (2001) and very much (albeit in a much less fanciful manner) to Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). So what’s not to like? Nothing really, but the film doesn’t quite resonate with me, despite its haunting quality and the fact that it never gives up its secrets. Perhaps the most interesting aspect is the fact that nearly everyone who writes about the film reaches a different conclusion as to its meaning. In that regard alone, it’s a film very worth experiencing for yourself.
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