Creator of masterpieces, Erice is making his first movie in 30 years
Last week, cinephiles around the world rejoiced when it was announced that Víctor Erice would be making a new movie. If you know his name, you already understand, but you can be forgiven if you’ve never heard of him—the Spanish director has only made three features, and this new movie will be his first in 30 years.
I first became familiar with him a couple decades ago when I read Guillermo del Toro citing him as a major influence, specifically Erice’s 1973 film The Spirit of the Beehive. The first time I saw it, I knew I was watching one of the best movies I’d ever see. It takes place not long after the Spanish Civil War, and follows a young girl named Ana in a small rural town, who sees a traveling roadshow exhibition of the movie Frankenstein. She becomes fascinated, and has a conversation with her older sister in which the sister tells her that the monster didn’t actually die at the end of the film, because everything in the movies is fake anyway. Ana comes upon a wounded soldier hiding in a barn and she helps him, thinking maybe this is Frankenstein’s monster, as lines get a little blurred between her imagination and reality. Or, and this is important, between her experience of reality and what we, as adults, think reality to be. It’s an astonishing, and astonishingly beautiful, film that understands deeply the world of children and how we can destroy that world, and this is all even leaving aside the supposed anti-Francoist subtext.
I’ve only seen one of Erice’s other two films, and that’s 1983’s El Sur, but there are some people who like it even more than The Spirit of the Beehive. It hits on some similar themes, though it takes them to a different place, and it reinforces Erice’s ability to show the world through a child’s eyes, and how mysterious the world can be to young people.
Both movies are true masterpieces and are streaming right now on the Criterion Channel.