The Spirit of the Beehive (Victor Erice, 1972)

What's it about? Set in a remote Spanish village at the end of the Civil War, 6-year old Ana sees the movie Frankenstein in a travelling movie-show and is convinced by her sister that the spirit of the Monster is alive and can be summoned by calling it to her. Fuelled by this suggestion, her fertile imagination affords an escape from her distant family life and the stifled, emotionless village, which is seemingly shattered in the aftermath of the war.

Is it any good? A gentle, enigmatic and quietly profound film. As Ana, Ana Torrent turns in what must be one of the most natural child performances in cinema, perfectly capturing the wide-eyed innocence of a child trying to make sense of the world around her as she peers at it (and us, the audience) with her large, dark eyes. Around her, her parents and other characters are sketched in a series of short, often wordless scenes, leaving all of them (and indeed the entire film) open to interpretation. Some may find this a rather slow, puzzling film. Nothing is ever clearly explained, although it obviously symbolic of the Spanish nation and history, but there's also something rather poignant and appealing about it - maybe it reminds us of when we too had the innocent imagination of childhood before the realities of life set in.

Anything else I should know? Nerdy fact alert! There are 1000 shots in the film; 500 inside, 500 outside. That'll impress your mates down the pub. When they're digesting that nugget of information, follow up with further facts from this detailed critique.

What does the Fonz think? One for when you're in a contemplative mood.

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