Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Spirit of the Beehive & Maurice Maeterlinck

Victor Erice's The Spirit of the Beehive is one of the most beautiful films ever made and as I have mentioned many times here, a huge personal favourite of mine. It is also mystifying and elusive to the extreme. One of the main sources of puzzlement is the mysterious title itself, though it is not that hard to make sense of what it means after you have seen it. Only recently however, I came to know that it makes a reference to a monograph written by French-Belgian nobel laureate Maurice Maeterlinck titled The Life of Bee, which is available on the internet. (It also makes sense because the film makes such clever and potent uses of intertextuality, most obviously to James Whale's classic Frankenstein.) Though written in a nice language, it is not really anything special. The life of all social insects provide a ready-made metaphor for human life itself - specially the aspect that individuals act only on the basis of local and immediate needs and motives without knowing the global outcome of their specialised actions. It is as if they are guided by "the spirit of the beehive" which is nothing but the mysterious life-force, the basic driver of all things.

The wikipedia article on Maeterlinck also has this interesting nugget:

Samuel Goldwyn asked him to produce a few scenarios for film. Only two of Maeterlinck's submissions still exist; Goldwyn didn't use any of his submissions. Maeterlinck had prepared one based on his The Life of a Bee. After reading the first few pages Goldwyn burst out of his office, exclaiming: "My God! The hero is a bee!"


- said...

Way off topic, but where did Antonia go? She has seemingly disappeared?!?!?!?!!?

Alok said...

No idea. I will send an email and see...