|Cinergía Movie File:
The Spirit of the Beehive (El espíritu de la colmena)
Directed by Victor Erice, 1973
This file was created by Deanna Kohrs
Scroll down or Click on any section to jump ahead:
Section 1: Pre-screening
Section 2: Film Comprehension and Criticism
Section 3: Media analysis
Part I) Background
Links for “El espíritu de la colmena”
Note: Given the transitory nature of internet resources we suggest conducting a search to help answer the pre-screening questions. Only a few links are included below.
This site briefly describes the Civil War, the main aspects of Franco’s
fascist regime, as well as his forty-year dictatorship.
It describes Spain as an exhausted country after the war, and explains
that although Franco’s dictatorship was established, the country remained
internally divided and impoverished. This
is an essential aspect to understand when viewing the town represented in “El
espíritu” as well as when analyzing the alienated family represented in this
Portal Fuenterrebollo: Gobiernos
While explaining Franco’s powers as Chief of State, and head of the
Armed Forces and the Falange, this site also describes how all other political
parties were suppressed. It
mentions how any opposition was repressed and illustrates how more than 300,000
were incarcerated around 1940. The
information mentioned helps explain why so little communication is presented in
“El espíritu de la colmena.”
Historia Cultural Contemporánea de Espańa: La Censura Franquista
This site provides a brief section explaining the effects of censorship
and how it was enforced during Franco’s dictatorship to stop any subversive
messages from challenging the status quo. The
effect of censorship is pertinent when viewing “El espíritu de la colmena”
because this film was made and produced in accordance with these laws.
Desperate Democracy Disregarded
(English) While explaining the aid that both the Republican and Nationalist side received in the war from different countries, this site provides important links concerning events preceding the war and the goal of the Revolution. Spectators should be familiar with the Nationalist party that won the war, as well the Republican party that was suppressed afterwards.
Espańa Siglo XX
(Spanish) This detailed site focuses on El
Franquisimo and the Transition. It
provides a history of both sides of the war, an article on life in 1940’s, and
supplies links about the dictator Fransciso Franco. Before viewing the film, it is necessary to understand
Spain’s condition both prior to Franco’s regime, as well as after.
Links that pertain to the Transition after Franco’s death in 1975 are
Still Draw Pictures: Drawing made
by Spanish children during the Spanish
This Web page provides a link to over 600 children’s drawings of the
Spanish Civil War! By viewing these
drawings, one can draw correlations between the symbolic pictures drawn by Ana
that are shown during the opening scenes to the film “El espíritu de la
Since this film rotates around the fantastical image of Frankenstein,
this site provides some background information concerning when, where and by
whom the story was created. Since
Frankenstein captivates the protagonist, Ana, in the movie, “El espíritu,”
the links provided here will provide the spectator with interesting facts.
How the idea for Frankenstein originated is described, as well as how his
origins may be linked to his representation in the film.
14.) El Espíritu de la Colmena
this web page a still of the girls can be found on the train tracks.
While this is not a scene that was used in the final debut of the movie,
it provides an interesting composition and alludes to similar images that will
be seen in this film.
15.) El espíritu
de la colmena
This site connects to the Internet Movie Database and provides both a
summary of the “El espíritu de la colmena,” as well as user comments.
Links about the director are provided in addition.
11. What is the plot of the film “El espíritu de la colmena” and how does itcorrespond to the information gathered above?
Section 2: Film Comprehension and Criticism
Part I: Comprehension
Part II: Historical
3: Media analysis
The natural light entering the window to the right of the frame illuminates the main character’s face, Ana, in “El espíritu de la colemna.” While illuminating her face, the bright key light also shines upon her father’s trapped beehive, casting both images into deep focus. The yellowish tinted light that divides the still in subtle glow and dark shadow represents the clairvoyance of Ana’s young mind during this period versus the dark isolation of Spain’s older generations. Through the close-up of her face staring at the beehive, Ana’s interest in the trapped beehive is emphasized through the chiaroscuro lighting. The repeated motif of the beehive pattern in both the window and hive draws attention to the symbolic meaning of the items. Similar to the trapped bees that work incessantly without benefiting from their labor, so did the workers of Spain toil under Franco’s controlled dictatorship. Similar to the closed beehive, Spain also lacked communication during this historical period. Ana’s observation of this is clear as her quizzical look exams the repeated pattern that needed to be broken.
Ana in front of barnThe panoramic view illustrating Ana in the foreground standing like a statue in front of the abandoned barn symbolizes the creation of her fantasy world. The extreme long shot depicts the isolation of Spain during the beginning years of Franco’s regime, and the barn and well represent the place where Ana meets “the spirit” of Frankenstein. The natural lighting fills the frame and the neutral colors contribute to the sense of seclusion. While Ana is shown in the foreground, in the background her sister can be found blending into well as she cajoles Ana into this fantasy world she created. This still reflects Ana’s moment of hesitation, yet soon after she runs to her sister by the well and this location transforms into the site where Ana mixes reality and fantasy. In context to proceeding events in the film, the barn is where “the spirit” of Frankenstein becomes flesh and blood when the fugitive jumps of the train and chooses this place to hide out. It also serves as the place that severs Ana’s connection to reality when she finds the blood of the man after he’s been assassinated. In the proceeding scenes, Ana is forced to withdraw into her own personal world due to the lack of communication in Spain during this time period.
Whispering in Theater
This image, taken during the viewing of the movie “Frankenstein” in the film “El Espíritu de la Colmena,” presents two of the main characters of the film, Ana and Isabel. Ana’s innocent face and big brown eyes are illuminated fully in a bright light generated from the movie, while Isabel’s lit profile is shown to the right side whispering in her ear. The stark, chiaroscuro lighting in this still creates an eerie effect of two floating faces against a black background, which parallels the dark shadows found throughout this film. Both Ana and Isabel are depicted in an extreme close-up in deep focus, revealing the quizzical expression on Ana’s face after asking her sister if Frankenstein truly killed the young girl in “Frankenstein”. Ana doesn’t understand why Frankenstein would do that and asks her sister for clarification, yet as proceeding scenes show, Isabel is a very faulty source of information and contributes to Ana’s confusion between reality and fantasy with twisted lies. Instead of being honest with Ana, Isabel continually contorts the truth. Put into the larger context of the film and its underlying meaning, Ana represents the innocent young generation of Republican Spain around 1940, while Isabel symbolizes the Nationalists who are obsessed with money and power. When Ana asks Isabel for advice, all she receives are deceit and lies. Finally, there comes a point in the film in which Ana no longer turns to her sister and her trickery, and therefore turns inward towards her own imagination.
|Frankenstein with flowers||Hallucination in Lake|
Each of these stills brings into play the juxtaposition of fantasy and reality in the “El Espíritu de la Colmena” (“The Spirit of the Beehive”). The first image is generated from the actual film “Frankenstein”, while the second one is the hallucination that the young girl Ana sees in the lake. The initial still from “Frankenstein” is composed of a medium shot with contrasting light, radiating from the sun in the upper right hand corner of the frame. The key light/natural light illuminates the face and gloved hands of this man-made human that “contains the brain of a criminal”. Through the use of a hazy focus and lighting, Frankenstein is shown experiencing the simple human pleasure of playing with a flower. The still portrays him as rather harmless, although his monstrous figure counteracts this suggestion and alludes to the proceeding scene when he kills the innocent young girl. Through the use of “metacine,” the image shown in the movie “Frankenstein” affects the reality of the innocent main character, Ana, in “El Espíritu.”
The second still portraying Frankenstein’s face reflected in the lake represents Ana’s break with reality after all her sources of information are proven defective under Franco’s dictatorship. The extremely dark chiaroscuro lighting solely illuminates the eerie face of Frankenstein, which is lit from the natural light emanating from the moon above. His features are shown in focus, and in the scene from which the still is generated, Ana’s innocent face and his grotesque appearance fade in and out. This scene parallels the actual clip from the movie “Frankenstein,” and relates to Ana’s disconnected reality. After faulty information sources (such as Ana’s family, school, and exposure to film) fail to provide adequate sources of information, Frankenstein syntagmatically transforms from a character in a movie into an object of fantasy, and in the end symbolizes Ana’s faith.
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Created on 4/10/01
Last updated on 07/26/2007