Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Spirit of the Beehive


After sitting in my Netflix queue for several weeks next to the words "long wait" I finaly recieved a copy of The Spirit of the Beehive over the weekend. I had heard very good things about the film, but I couldn't have imagined that by the time I had finished watching, that it would have immediately become on a short list of favorite films ever for me. It's intimidating even to write a few paragraphs about a film that moved me so much.

The film takes place shortly after the Spanish Civil War in a small village and focuses primarily on two young sisters Ana and Isabelle. As the film starts we see a truck pulling into the village with kids dancing around the truck singing and shouting "The movie is here, the movie is here." A copy of Frankenstein has been brought to the village and will eb shown in the town hall building that evening. While watching the film Ana is transfixed by a scene where a child gives a flower to Frankenstein and offers to play with him. Of course in the film the child dies, and Frankenstein is put to death. That evening while going to bed Ana asks Isabelle why Frankenstein killed the child and why later Frankenstein was killed. Isabelle responds that none of this happened, because, "everything in movies is fake," and beyond that she has spoken to Frankenstein's spirit who is near the village. So now, and for the remainder of the film, Ana's focus is on finding and making contact with this spirit.

This film affected me on so many levels. The first 45 minutes of the film I had an awful feeling in my chest, coming from what I would guess was a sense of impending doom. The depth of the images and sound in this film brought this forward more than any of the dialogue. I remember reading numerous times of how Antonioni's L'Avventura created a new cinematic language. After watching this I couldn't help but wonder if this was the same language more fully expressed or something entirely different from even that. The film perfectly captures the imagination and wonder of childhood. And it does so in silent pauses, reaction shots, eye contact and smiles between the two children.

That sense of doom that I mentioned though stayed with me througout the entire film. When watching the children watch Frankenstein I couldn't help but wonder how far their imagine and curiousity would take them afterwards, whether it would put them in a dangerous situation. Of course it didn't help that they were children of seemingly very disengaged parents. And as the movie neared it's conclusioon and I felt myself overcome by what I was seeing I had to remind myself of Isabelle's mention earlier in the film, how "everything in movies is fake." But even then, I was unable to fully disengage myself from the film.

I wonder now to myself, when and if I am lucky enough to have children how this film may affect my own parenting. I wonder how it would affect me trying to share my love of film with them.

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