1973 Spanish slow-paced drama film with lots of symbolisms and silences directed by Victor Erice (one of the only two full-length films he made) and produced by Elías Querejeta, originally titled El espíritu de la colmena. It stars Fernando Fernán Gómez, Teresa Gimpera, and a young Ana Torrent.
Set in a remote village in Segovia, Spain just after the end of the Spanish Civil War, the film follows six-year-old Ana, who, mesmerised by a travelling cinema screening of the 1931 film Frankenstein, begins a search for the gentle monster.
It was a major influence on Guillermo del Toro - The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth both have similar themes, particularly the latter in regards of the coming of age story of a young girl and the limits between fantasy and reality in a post-Civil War period.
This film provides examples of:
- Chekhov's Gun: When running away from home, Ana comes across a poisonous mushroom, similar to the one her father warned her about in an earlier scene.
- Color Motif: A lot of yellow, which alludes to the implicit comparison between the beehive, and Spain itself (yellow being the predominant color of the Spanish flag).
- Comforting Comforter: In the second to last scene, Ana's father is shown asleep at his desk and her mother takes off his glasses and covers him with a jacket.
- Curtains Match the Window: Dark haired, dark eyed Ana.
- Driven to Suicide: Some theorize that Ana, upon realizing that her only friend was dead, and erroneously believing her father being involved in it, decided to eat the lethal mushroom, which may then have caused an accidental drug trip involving Frankenstein's monster.
- Faking the Dead: Isabel plays a prank on her sister by pretending to be dead.
- Free-Range Children: Ana and Isabel love to make escapades to the abandoned building, where the spirit is supposed to be living. Then it's Ana herself who makes escapades, especially when she makes good friends with a fugitive.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: One theory is that the "powerful experience" the doctor talks about is Ana been on a magic mushroom trip. In an early scene, the father warns the girls about 'bad' mushrooms, says they will kill them, but it may just be him not wanting his daughters, to get in touch with hallucinogen substances. Ana may then have eaten this 'bad' mushroom, though we don't see it on-screen because of Media Watchdogs, especially under the Franco regime which ruled in Spain at the time the film was made.
- Imaginary Friend: After watching Frankenstein, inspired by the ghost story of her sister, Ana becomes obsessed with the idea of befriending the imaginary monster.
- No Ending: The movie has no conclusion, it ends with Ana talking to her Imaginary Friend.
- Protected by a Child: The Republican fugitive is briefly sheltered by Ana.
- Shout-Out: Ana meeting the monster at the lake parallels the scene from Frankenstein.
- Skip of Innocence: Both Ana and Isabel.
- Trivial Title: The titular bees are only featured in one scene, though bee symbolism like the hexagonal windows that look like honeycomb is present elsewhere.