(ot El Espíritu de la Colmena) Spanish movie (1973). Elías Querejeta. Pr Elías Querejeta. Dir Victor Erice. Screenplay Francisco J Querejeta. Starring Teresa Gimpera (Teresa), Fernando Fernán Gómez (Fernando), Juan Margallo (Fugitive), Isabel Tellería (Isabel), Ana Torrent (Ana), José Villasante (Monster). 98 mins. Colour.
Hoyuelos (Segovia, Castile), 1940, with the Franco repression in full force. Young Ana's family is swathed in escapist fantasy (> Escapism) of one form or another: her father Fernando is obsessed to exclusion with his beehives and the writing of a never-to-be-published magnum opus on the philosophy of apiary; her mother Teresa, seemingly much younger than Fernando, writes wistful letters to a probably nonexistent lover; elder sister Isabel has at least learnt to control her fantasies. The two children are much impressed by a village-hall screening of Frankenstein (1931; > Frankenstein Movies). Afterwards Ana, who has identified strongly with the movie's Maria, asks why the Monster killed the little girl, and why the populace then killed the Monster. Isabel, to shut her up, replies that neither Maria nor the Monster are dead: she, Isabel, has met and spoken with the Monster, which is a Spirit that rendered itself incarnate for the purposes of the movie. Isabel guides Ana to the derelict barn where, she claims, the Monster dwells – though he comes out only at night. Ana haunts the place by day, and when a criminal shelters there she believes him to be a different incarnation of the Spirit, bringing him food and articles of her father's clothing. The police kill the fugitive and Ana's activities are uncovered. She runs away from home. That night, while the hunt for her continues, she sees, in the water of the stream by which she kneels, her own reflected face becoming the Monster's – and then the Monster himself comes to comfort her. After her safe restoration to home, her family shed their fantasies; but Ana knows that the Monster is her friend and will come any time she calls him.
This is one of a group of movies that seek to explore the origins of Fantasy through the evocation of childhood, and is perhaps the most lovingly crafted of all; Erice's "eye" conjures the fantastical out of the mundane, in particular couching the somewhat bleak Spanish terrain such that it becomes filled with the resonances of a post-Holocaust landscape. The two children, giving exceptional performances, enhance this effect of dual Perception – of seeing a Reality that is not unique and absolute but instead layered, the relative importance of its individual layers being in a state of constant flux. [JG]