Review by: Graeme Kay | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Trailer; Stills gallery; Trailer reel.
RELEASED as part of the 17th London Film Festival, Victor Erice's
masterpiece is a stark portrait of life in 1940s Spain, just after
the fascist takeover by General Franco.
The story revolves around the characters of Isabel (Isabel Telleria)
and Ana (Ana Torrent), two children who live in a large, isolated,
country house, with their parents, Fernando (Fernando Fernan Gomez)
and Teresa (Teresa Gimpera).
Fernando and Teresa, struggling to come to terms with what has
become of their country now that it is in the grip of dictator,
are withdrawn, backward-looking and self-absorbed, and rarely
communicate with each other or their offspring.
Instead the confused and seemingly shell-shocked Fernando absorbs
himself in his beehives, while his beautiful but remote wife writes
nostalgic letters, that may never be read, to an adopted child
who has been re-settled in another country.
Meanwhile, for the over-imaginative Isabel and Ana life is an
equally unfathomable mystery, in which spirits roam the land befriending
good children and punishing the bad.
And so life goes on
until a fugitive republican soldier
enters the scene and triggers a chain of events that brings parents
and children back together.
Although Spirit of the Beehive, initially released in 1974, was
Victor Erice's first feature film, it is a hugely accomplished,
atmospheric and profound piece of work.
Using the bleak sienna-toned countryside of the Castilian plateau
as his ground, Erice directs with a deliberately slow hand, allowing
his camera to linger long and hard on the distant horizon of the
featureless landscape or the beautifully innocent faces of the
This simple, economic technique combined with the low-profile
characters and the sparse dialogue, which barely rises above a
whisper, serves to conjure up a ghostly demi-world through which
the protagonists, the alienated adults in particular, move in
silent, dumb confusion.
Altogether a telling commentary on a momentous period of Spanish