Cross-posted from Row Three
A gaggle of excited children chase a van into the center of a tiny Spanish village – a movie has come to town, a rare occasion that brings nearly everyone in town to check it out. It’s 1940, World War II is going on elsewhere in Europe, the country is in recovery from their own civil war, but the movie is 1931’s Frankenstein, and the village’s attention is riveted. Based on this opening, it seems as if The Spirit of the Beehive is going to be a movie about the movies and the effect of movies on small-town populations – like a Cinema Paradiso or Shadow Magic. And though the rest of the film unfolds based on the catalyst of two little girls, sisters Isabel and Ana, seeing Frankenstein, it quickly transcends cinema and becomes about something far more primal – imagination itself.
Young Ana has two questions for her older sister Isabel: Why did the monster kill the little girl, and why did the villagers kill the monster? The fact that she doesn’t wholly connect the two events together perhaps makes it less surprising that she soon identifies much more with the monster than the villagers (the lack of perceived causal connection between the two also indicates to the audience that we shouldn’t look for exact 1:1 correlations between Frankenstein and the events of The Spirit of the Beehive). Isabel’s answer is that neither the girl nor the monster died, firstly because it’s a movie and the movies aren’t real, but also because the monster is still alive – she’s seen him at night in an abandoned house nearby. This response is very telling. Isabel’s imagination is good at creating stories, especially ones with a cruel edge that mislead others for her amusement, but she herself knows what’s real and what’s made up. She doesn’t get lost in her own imaginings the way that Ana soon will.
Please continue reading this entry at Row Three.