Spirit of the Beehive (Victor Erice, 1973)

el Espíritu de la colmena
SP, 95 min

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Set in the wake of the Spain’s devastating civil war. After a screening of the original Frankenstein in a remote Castilian village, a thoughtful little girl goes in search of the monster. She comes upon a lot more, though; some of it monstrous, some not.

Widely regarded as the greatest Spanish film of the 1970s. Produced as Franco’s long regime was nearing its end, The Spirit of the Beehive is a spellbinding portrait of a child’s haunted inner life and one of the most visually arresting movies ever made.

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Despite being a relatively compact hour-and-a-half in length, the pacing will probably be excruciating for modern audiences – anyone bred on sitcoms, or otherwise naturally without patience, should probably avoid. The plot, too, relies on subtle tonalities and abstraction… if that sounds unpleasant or tiresome, avoid. If you need an ending with closure… avoid. Some will definitely find it offensively ponderous… but, then, some always do.

But, dang, what a flick. Painterly. Quiet and airy. Mesmerizing performance from the little five-year-old (!) star. Poignant. Wild mushrooms. Cinematography. Bees.

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