Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Spirit of the Beehive. A-

A pretty legendary piece of Spanish cinema, The Spirit of the Beehive plays like traditional neo-realism and pre-Miyazaki simultaneously. Much of the film presents the fairly typical life of a young girl just after the Francois victory during the Spanish Civil War. We see her in school, at dinner with her family, roughhousing with her older sister, pretending to use soap as shaving cream. But then there's this incredible, haunting, mysterious tone to the movie as well, which starts at the beginning when a mobile cinema rolls into town and shows the original 1931 Frankenstein. The girl, about six, is mesmerized by it, but also haunted and confused by the infamous scene in which the monster drowns the child into the river. From then on she experiences the world a little differently, inspired to see it as only children can-or as can only be seen in a movie. So rather than run scared when a soldier appears in her secret sheepfold hideout, she feeds him. She wanders into the woods one night and imagines the monster from the film comes up besides her. We don't get much of what's going on outside the girl's world. We see her father working with the beehives, which are fascinating to see, and we get glimpses of the mother lying in bed or writing at her desk. Yet we don't see much interaction between the parents probably because the girl herself doesn't. Like Forbidden Games or any Miyazaki film, The Spirit of the Beehive embraces the strange qualities of childhood. What's especially great about it is how unsentimental it is. It's largely a movie about images and facial reactions to them. Most of the time we must guess what the girl is thinking. But I think my favorite thing is that here is a young child sees a horror movie and is inspired to see the world differently because of it rather than have nightmares about it and try to forget its terrifying effect. 

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