Oh no, the Spanish film The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) is most definitely not a good movie.
Because to dismiss an excellent movie, a classic like Spirit of the Beehive as merely a good movie would be a venal sin.
I haven’t seen such a charming movie in months, in eons.
I’d easily count The Spirit of the Beehive among the best films I’ve watched.
The Spirit of the Beehive is the kind of rara avis you stumble upon if you’ve accumulated enough good Karma in several prior lifetimes.
In The Spirit of the Beehive, director Víctor Erice turned out nothing less than a masterpiece.
A Soaring Film
Since most film-makers are stupid, they easily forget movies are an amalgam of three things – an enchanting visual medium, a gripping story-telling platform and a wide canvas to showcase fine acting.
Alas, the majority of movies, be they Bollywood, Kollywood or Hollywood, fail to succeed even in one aspect.
It’s to the credit of Spirit of the Beehive that it soars in all three aspects.
The photography is extraordinary, as the camera turns its lens to capture by turn the barren countryside of the late dictator Franco’s Spain, Ana’s expressive, wide-eyed face and everything else in between, all with spellbinding effect.
Even the photography of the father walking in his candle-lit room in the dead of the night is so beautifully captured.
Set in 1940, just after the Spanish Civil War brought Franco to power, the story is simple, charming and supposedly allegorical of Spanish society under the dictatorship.
We see a well-to-do family in rural Spain comprising of two young girls Isabel and Ana and their beekeeper father and an emotionally distant mother.
Although the family lives together under one roof, you get the sense it’s not a warm, tight-knit family.
The mother is distant, writing to a long-separated lover.
The father is busy with his beekeeping during the day and philosophical writing on the beehive at night.
And the two sisters?
They go to school, have pillow fights and one night watch the movie Frankenstein in the small village hall.
After the movie, elder sister Isabel deceives Ana into believing spirits exist and can be summoned by closing one’s eyes and summoning them.
Young, gullible Ana believes the tale and soon sees the Frankenstein spirit in the Republican solder jumping off the train showering him with warm clothes and food.
Even if you fail to connect the allegorical dots in Franco’s Spain, the film still casts a spell over you.
The acting by the four main characters is brilliant and more so by young Ana (Ana Torrent).
It’s to director Víctor Erice’s talent and credit that he extracted such a powerful performance from then seven-year-old Ana Torrent.
The movie might appear slow paced to today’s ADDled generation. But the universe of film-goers than appreciate a gem like Spirit of the Beehive has always been a small one.
Spirit of the Beehive is available on DVD at Netflix for lovers of good films.