Review: ‘El Espiritu de la Colmena’

This sensitive, beautifully-wrought film about two small girls in a Castilian village in 1940 (just after the end of the Spanish Civil War) couldn't be more authentically Spanish in its evocation of life in the provinces; yet its suggestivity and lyricism transcend local borders.

This sensitive, beautifully-wrought film about two small girls in a Castilian village in 1940 (just after the end of the Spanish Civil War) couldn’t be more authentically Spanish in its evocation of life in the provinces; yet its suggestivity and lyricism transcend local borders.

Two girls are, one night, taken to the village cinema where they see an old Frankenstein film. They only imperfectly understand what is happening on the screen, but are fascinated by the scene where the small girl picks a flower and gives it to the monster. They imagine that the monster is a kind of benevolent spirit who can be invoked by saying certain words.

Rest of pic shows how the two children, especially the younger, Ana (Ana Torrent), search for traces of the spirit in and out of the village and become increasingly obsessed by it: they spin a dream world of their own about the monster. The spirit’s existence seems to be somehow further corroborated when an escaped prisoner holes up in a neighboring barn and is discovered and aided by Ana.

Acting is superb, especially by Torrent; also excellent are Fernando Fernan Gomez as the mournful intellectual father who has a small beehive inside the house, and Teresa Gimpera as the mother who pens letters to imaginary correspondents. Much of the film’s charm comes from the touching simplicity of scenes.

El Espiritu de la Colmena

Spain

Production

Querejeta. Director Victor Erice; Producer Elias Querejeta; Screenplay Victor Erice, Angel Fernandez Santos; Camera Luis Cuadrado; Editor Pablo G. del Amo; Music Luis de Pablo; Art Director Adolfo Cofino

Crew

(Color) Available on VHS. Extract of a review from 1973. Running time: 95 MIN.

With

Fernando Fernan Gomez Teresa Gimpera Ana Torrent Isabel Telleria Laly Soldevilla Miguel Picazo
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