Close Up

12 - 20 January 2020: The Spirit of the Beehive


The Spirit of the Beehive
Víctor Erice, 1973, 98 min
Spanish with English subtitles

"Although declared in an opening credit as set “Once Upon a Time,” Víctor Erice’s remarkable The Spirit of the Beehive takes place in rural Spain in the early 1940s, just after the death of the Second Republic and the start of Franco’s long dictatorship. The fairytale time frame declared by Erice makes clear the powerful role played in his now-classic film by poetic allegory and the childhood imagination as tools of resistance. Released in the dark twilight of the Franco regime, as Spaniards impatiently awaited the impending death of the sickly despot, The Spirit of the Beehive follows a young girl who begins to see visions and waking dreams after watching James Whale’s Frankenstein, screened in an improvised theater by an itinerant showman. An emblem for the monstrous dictatorship and the trance state of political repression enforced upon its citizens, Shelley’s unhuman and uncanny creature (whose name echoes that of the Spanish leader) is here given new life as an invisible yet omnipresent force that represses freedom and reduces outspoken voices to anxious murmurs." – Harvard Film Archive

Part of our Essential Cinema series

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