Matchup of the Day: Frankenstein vs. The Spirit of the Beehive
It’s a cinematic fantasy vs. reality matchup – The Spirit of the Beehive vs. Frankenstein.
The Spirit of the Beehive takes place in Spain in 1940, not long after the Spanish Civil War. The film was released in 1973 when Spain was still under the rule of dictator Francisco Franco. According to the article “The Spirit of the Beehive: Spanish Lessons“, censorship forced filmmakers to use fantasy and allegory instead of making direct political statements. This contributes to the dream-like quality of Beehive. For viewers not familiar with the historical context of the film, it’s possible to not derive any political interpretation at all.
The main characters are two young sisters, Ana and Isabel. They watch the 1931 motion picture Frankenstein at the theater, which troubles Ana. She doesn’t understand why the monster drowns a little girl in the film, or why the villagers seek to destroy him. Her older sister explains that movies aren’t real and that no one really died. She adds that the monster is actually a spirit that lives near the village. This fuels Ana’s imagination.
Later, Ana encounters a wounded man hiding in the building where her sister said the spirit resides. His identity is never revealed, though it can be assumed that he’s a soldier. Ana brings him some food and looks after him briefly before his off-screen death by gunfire. When Ana returns to visit all she finds are bloodstains. She runs off into the woods where she meets Frankenstein’s monster, much the same way the girl in the film Frankenstein does.
What’s most interesting about Beehive is that Ana’s perception of reality is replaced by layers of irreality. First she believes the monster in the film is real. Then she accepts her sister’s explanation that the monster from the film is actually a spirit. This leads her to assume that the soldier is the spirit. When she finally runs into the actual monster it’s hard to decide if the encounter is real or imagined. That makes me wonder how my own perceptions have been altered by years of immersing myself in cinema.