Sunday, October 21, 2007

31 Days of Halloween - Day 21 - Movie 2

"The Spirit of the Beehive" (1973) is the direct predecessor to Guillermo del Toro's two exceptional films "The Devil's Backbone" (2001)and "Pan's Labyrinth" (2006). This gorgeous, if languidly paced movie uses fantasy imagery to detail the effects of the Spanish Civil War on a small child. After a traveling cinema holds a showing of "Frankenstein" (1931) in a small village on the Castilian plain, Isabel (Isabel Telleria) convinces her younger sister, Ana (Ana Torrent) that the sprit of the Frankenstein monster inhabits an abandoned building beyond the village. Ana becomes obsessed with the monster and obsessed with death, determined to witness the monster for herself.

Beyond the children, this movie shows the effects of the Spanish Civil War on the townspeople, and Ana's family in particular. Everything is subtle, and most of the events, experienced through Ana's senses, remain unclear to us, as they would to a young child whose understanding of the world around her is limited. Torrent, and the rest of the cast are excellent in this film which has a real sense of dread building throughout, as every scene seems to inevitably build towards something tragic.

One such tragedy was that the cinematographer, Luis Cuadrado was slowly going blind during filming, and eventually did go blind and later committed suicide in 1980. This movie should not be missed.

1 comment:

Shawn Robare said...

I hadn't heard of this film until you mentioned it and being a fan of Del Toro's more personal flicks I put it on the Netflix queue.

Just finished watching it and I'm glad I did. It is slow, but beautiful and really (for lack of a better term) haunting.

The one thing that I was wondering about was the scene near the end where Ana has run off. She comes to a mushroom in the woods and stoops by it. Considering the earlier lessons on mushroom hunting that she learned from her father and the eerie fantastical scene that follows, I was wondering if this scene was sort of a way for the director to add a little bit of ambiguity, to insert an explanation for a possible hallucination or sickness induced fever dream.

I also wonder about this a little because I can certainly see how Spirit of the Beehive informed Del Toro's work and he seems to take the ambiguity of fantasy vs. reality even further.

I don't know. Anyway, thanks again for the recommendation.