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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

'The Spirit of the Beehive': A Haunting and Sensitive Depiction of Childhood Innocence Amidst the Francoist Spanish State


Movie poster for The Spirit of the Beehive

The Spirit of the Beehive (El Espíritu de la Colmena) (1973) is a haunting Spanish drama about a shy six-year-old girl named Ana (Ana Torrent) living in a small village on the Castilian plateau circa 1940. Residing in a sizable manor with her parents, Fernando (Fernando Fernán Gómez) and Teresa (Teresa Gimpera), as well as elder sister Isabel (Isabel Tellería), Ana is deeply affected by a mobile screening of the 1931 horror film Frankenstein.


Set in the days following the cessation of the Spanish Civil War and the Francoist victory over Republican forces, the film follows young Ana's wide-eyed loss of innocence as she becomes haunted by the specter of Frankenstein's monster. Isabel teasingly informs Ana that the monster is not dead in actuality, and that Ana can conjure his spirit if she calls upon him. This seemingly benign act of prankishness sets Ana on an ominous path of trepidation and profound discovery.


Written and directed by Spanish filmmaker Víctor Erice (El Sur, Close Your Eyes), The Spirit of the Beehive is a darkly compelling masterwork widely regarded as one of the greatest Spanish films ever made. Drawing allegorical parallels to the Francoist State, with Fernando's ubiquitous beehives representing the inhumanity of fascism, Erice delivers a thought-provoking treatise on the decay of Spanish society under nearly four decades of oppression.


 

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