Saturday, July 16, 2011

El espíritu de la colmena

At times, silence speaks much more than voices, forebodings are truer than what happened, and a deserted plain has more secrets than a forest of chestnuts. I will call Victor Erice, the director, the timekeeper: a man who must have had the ability to feel the untold burden and the untold wealth of love, fear and anger to be able to make El espíritu de la colmena (int'l title: The Spirit of the Beehive).

The film has no need of oblique references to Franco and the Spain of yesteryears; within itself, the story of a child haunted and imprisoned, a life-changing sentence that at once is transcendental between life and death, between the meaningless order of bees and the disorder of humans consequent to striving for meaning, the story not only moves you sweepingly in her world, but also thrills you and grips you. Even without the horror, there is horror; the film is shot carefully, with colors chosenly blended: a heavy melancholia pervades at all times the house of two lively girls in the silent Castillian village. While Isabel slowly develops sadistic streaks as her form of rebellion against the silence, Ana chooses silence to cut silence: finding labyrinths through the silence, she must encounter the spirit, and determine if the spirit is even evil or not. Why to accuse the spirit beforehand? She is ready for change, for a new oncoming; may not a spirit bring more sense to the world of bees, building cells and collecting honey as if they were run mechanically?

Every shot is a beauty to watch, and it is rare that a film succeeds when every shot is some thing: here it does, because every shot has a purpose, a meaning. The art direction is very relevant, only enhanced by the extraordinary cinematography. At once, through rich poetics, Erice addresses growing up, rebellion, the gatherer's life we choose to live, and the meaning of poetry itself in life. A film hard to forget, The Spirit of the Beehive raises the rarely asked question: who is said to exist?