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A movie you can't look away from, but damn, I just didn't get it.
Spanish director Víctor Erice's The Spirit of the Beehive has to be part of the inspiration for Pan's Labyrinth. It just has to be. Set during the Spanish Civil War, it stars a couple of young girls who, after seeing Universal's Frankenstein, reimagine him as an immortal spirit and come to believe he resides in an abandoned barn. For the older girl, the world of spirits seems an excuse to give in to dark impulses. For the younger - whose eyes will SWALLOW YOUR SOUL, gosh - it is a mystery she herself creates in trying to understand death. Certainly, there's a lot of tension in the film just from the girls putting themselves in odd kind of dangers, both physical and spiritual. The film operates like poetry, with images overlapping and resonating, but does not easily give up its secrets. It's gorgeous, quiet, intriguing, at times eerie, purposefully lyrical, and for all its art and spare image making, still captivates. Del Toro fans would do well to check it out, but it's a recommendation I extend to all true cinephiles.
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Currently in 20 official lists, but has been in 25