« Shirley Temple Curls | Main | The Soul Of The Red Rose »

The Scrivener: The Spirit of the Beehive – Part Three

“Not all films are produced for entertainment,’’ writes Brian Barratt. “Some have more beneath the surface. They are designed to be analysed before they can be understood.’’

Brian concludes his three-part series which hugely increases our knowledge and enjoyment of the great Spanish film The Spirit of the Beehive.;

To read the first two parts, and many more articles by Brian, please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/the_scrivener/

And do visit his fun-filled Web site The Brain Rummager

Beneath the surface

"Why don't you just sit back and enjoy the film? Why do you have to analyse it?" The answer is straightforward — not all films are produced for entertainment. Some have more beneath the surface. They are designed to be analysed before they can be understood. By its very nature, the 1973 Spanish film The Spirit of the Beehive is in this category. Beyond the beautiful photography and the children's faces there are, for example, many references to death. They hint at the underlying theme of the story. They tell us what is going on behind the eyes of the main characters.

— Father takes the girls, Isabel and Ana, for a walk through the woods, searching for edible mushrooms. He takes care to explain to them that a particular mushroom, or toadstool, is very poisonous and can kill.

— The older sister Isabel plays with the family's cat. At first, she strokes and cuddles it but she continues with an apparent attempt to strangle it. It scratches her when it escapes. She colours her lips with the blood from the scratch. (Some reviewers give this a dubious sexual connotation.)

— Knowing full well that Ana is curious about the film they have seen, in which Frankenstein's monster kills a little girl, Isabel pretends to be dead. She lies perfectly still on the floor. She has knocked over a potted plant and left an outside door open to give the impression that someone has broken in and attacked her. Ana finds her and tries to wake her up. Isabel follows this by creeping up behind Ana and frightening her. This sequence signals how Isabel has been influenced by what she probably knows of the horrors of the Spanish Civil War.

— Isabel and her friends play a game leaping through a fire in the garden, while Ana quietly looks on. In taking risks, the girls seem to be daring death to catch them.

— Ana believes that a fugitive soldier in a barn is the spirit of Frankenstein's monster which has taken on legs, arms, and a body. This is what Isabel has told her about the monster. Ana takes him food, drink and a warm jacket which belongs to her father. The fugitive is found by the local police and killed by a hail of gunfire in a nighttime ambush.

Fernando, the girls' father, somehow knows that it was Ana who gave his jacket, with his fob-watch in one of its pockets, to the now-dead soldier. He does not say anything, and does not punish her. He is silent about the affair, even when Ana runs away. She dreams about Frankenstein's monster, and is eventually found and brought home. She is confined to bed, suffering the effects of what she has been through. The film closes with her going to the window and gazing out, perhaps still seeking the answer to her questions. We must form our own conclusion.

In the end, we have to ask, "What is the spirit of the beehive?" For the girls' father it is the diverse and unceasing activity of the masses, beyond which the final repose is death. This is echoed in their mother's letters about separation and a loss of the ability to see life. Ana, in her imagination and dream, sees it as the spirit of a monster which has been built by Frankenstein, a man. And that is a allegory of Spanish Civil War, and all other wars. Through her eyes we come to understand more fully that they are monstrous creations of man.

The Spirit of the Beehive, 1973, DVD, Optimum Releasing.
© Copyright Brian Barratt 2010


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.