Spirit of the Beehive

Date Shown

6th March 2024

This year’s classic at Cinematheque is Spirit of the Beehive, now 50 years old. 

Victor Erice is a 1940-born Spanish film director, and this, his best known work, was made during the Franco years and set in rural 1940s Spain. It brought him instant and widespread acclaim and is an audacious critique of the disastrous legacy of the Spanish Civil War. As Luis Bunuel had also set out to do himself, Erice managed to make a film attacking the authoritarian rule in power in Spain under the very noses of Franco’s regime.

Set in a small Castilian village haunted by betrayal and menace, it follows a travelling cinema’s screening of James Whale’s 1931 ‘Frankenstein’. Seven years old Ana becomes fascinated by Boris Karloff’s monster and obsessed with meeting this initially gentle creation. When she comes across a wounded political fugitive hiding in a local abandoned farmhouse, the impressionable Ana takes him to be the wandering ‘spirit’ of the Frankenstein monster… This beautiful dream-like allegorical tale portraying a child’s attraction to a different world became a huge influence on Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ (2006) ‘Remarkable…a haunting mood piece’ Tony Rayns, Time Out, ‘Imaginatively conveys the mysteriousness of everyday life from a child’s perspective. The result? Spellbinding’ Tom Dawson, Total Film magazine.

         Incidentally Victor Erice, now in his eighties, has just released his first feature film in thirty years- ‘Close your Eyes’ (2023), a beautiful tale of loss, grief and the exquisite power of cinema, of which, he is truly a leading exponent.

Audience Reactions

A: 17, B: 11, C: 06, D: 01, E: 02

A: Top film beautifully told story of childhood (A) Powerful and enigmatic (A)  Brilliant; very tense. Thank you! (A) What a movie. Wonderful (A)    What a beautiful film – moving, touching, superb acting (was it acting?) by Ana and Isabel (A)   Film as art. Every scene as picture. ‘Less is more’. All life was there! (A) Deeply enigmatic and moving (A)    Muy bien (A)   A beautiful, wonderful film. Excellent acting and music. A very good film.(A)     This was the first film  I saw with my wife fifty years ago. Still wonderful. The film too….. (A)

B: Beautiful children acting magnificently. Plenty of scope for different interpretations! (B)    Very representative of its time (B)  Beautifully made; haunting. Does it matter that I still don’t know what it’s about? (B)  Beautifully acted + lovely photography, I wish I understood more. I need more time to think about. (B) Fascinating (B)  Rather ambiguous. Not clear enough for me…. BUT I liked it, Beautiful photography + wonderful acting by the girls. (B)  Very representative of its time (B)  Off home to Google the plot. Full of holes.(B)  Quite beautiful – amazing acting from the girls (B)     A slow burn? Often hauntingly beautiful but also very elusive.(B)

C: Good in some ways but a little disappointing. (C)  I’m afraid that I really didn’t understand it..but then again I’m a man! (C)  Enigmatic at times. Brilliant child actors (C)  Mystical, strange, but moving. (C)


E: Dull & tedious. Horrible background crackle (E)

IMDB details

The Spirit of the Beehive | March 14, 1975 (Sweden) 7.8


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Milagros, la criada
Guardia civil
Doña Lucía

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Countries: SpainLanguages: Spanish


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