El espiritu de la colmena (The Spirit of the Beehive) by Victor Erice (1973)
"A sensitive seven-year-old girl living a small village in 1940 rural Spain is traumatized after viewing James Whale’s "Frankenstein" and drifts into her own fantasy world." (via imdb).
This is Victor Erice’s debut film. The director is somewhat of a phenomenon. To assert that his body of work is not very large would be quite the understatement, since he made “only” three features and a few short films in four decades). So, it’s more like a wild guess on my part, but it must be that he’s probably just not someone who shouts as loud as the others when it comes to raise a multi-million-euro budget. If anything, his lack of self-importance are marking off on his work. Because, as detached and unique “The Spirit..” is, it is also a gentle, quiet and unpretentious film.
It guess it must have been one of those films, where everything fell into place. Casting, Photography, Locations… they form a unity. It’s like every part of the film agreed with the others, that it would be better not to take form and it’s as if they’re stuck in-between the ideas which first popped up in the director’s mind and their materialisation on celluloid. There is this lightness and transcending quality of an icon or just simple, mysterious, beautiful totem. In-between two worlds is maybe also the theme of the film, which seems loosely based on the Lewis Caroll classic “Alice in Wonderland”. Allegedly, when director of photography Luis Cuadrados shot this film he was already gone almost completely blind. His gaffer explained the sets and Luis told him where to place the lights, and the intensity of each. I can’t get wrap my mind around this fact, given how beautifully, almost otherworldly magical the lighting of this film is, but it fits my theory that this film is a shuttle into otherworldly realms (well, like most of the films, that are part of this series…).
"Spirit of the Beehive" also stands proof that you really can tell a story mostly through a face (Ana Torent’s face, that is). Human expression is something we, as a species, have studied for hundreds of thousands of years, so it shouldn’t come to anyone’s surprise that the interpretation of the human face and it’s myriad possibilities of showing something is the one thing in the universe we hold the ultimate expertise. The face is the barrel, which conveys everything we think, feel and comprehend, as individual beings. From the outside, the face of another person is the reflection of truth. It has muscular and sensual elasticity to comprise everything we know. Even if everything we are and do is only imagined, the face of the other can be the rope, which can pull us back into existence. Our parents faces are the first things we see/recognise/decipher while slowly sliding into this existence. And there’s probably no greater comfort than to have a very last glance at our dear ones, before we backslide from it…
Like an icon, the human face is not what it is, it’s what it’s hinting at, that is really important.