Unit 7. Transition and Disenchantment

The death of the Generalísimo on 20 October, 1975 marked the (in principle) end of fascism and the state of exception in Spain, as well as the beginning of new sociocultural waves such as ‘the Madrid Scene’ (la movida madrileña), ‘the Transition’ (la transición), the period of disenchantment (desengaño, already experienced in Spain during the Baroque period in the 17th century), and the threading of a distinct sense of historical memory.

During the second week of March, we learned various meanings of the concepts of Transition (la transición) and disenchantment (desengaño), and their importance in the study of Spain’s fascism, cinema, and religiosity in the 20th century.  We also sought to learn about the roles these concepts played in the unfolding of post-Francoism movement to open new venues of historical memory.

On Tuesday we explored the emerging of these waves, and how this era of transition lead to disenchantment, yet again, dejá vu.

On Thursday we discussed a film based on one of the most poignant novels of the transición, Camilo José Cela’s The Spirit of the Beehive

Write a reflection on how you see these two key concepts for Spain’s cultural history represented in Victor Erice’s film. This post does not have a firm deadline, but I recommend that you do not let posts accumulate at the end of the semester.

NOTE: As you write this week’s reflection, remember that last week’s assigned texts and discussions are closely related to next week’s, when we’ll discuss the (in principle as well) end of the state of exceptionalism and the new turns of violence in film and in society, present in both films.  The fact that the child-star, Ana Torrent, is cast in no small part because of her eyes, gives us footing to return to this point of the Spanish eyes and the gaze, as well as to a deeper analysis of camera work, composition, and other elements of film supporting the complex representation of fascism and religiosity.


  1. Last week we discussed the end of Franco’s regime and the themes of transition and disenchantment. His death marked the end of a fantasy, full of nostalgia for Spain’s past. Erice’s film tells the story of two young daughters, one of which becomes obsessed after viewing Frankenstein. The repression of the family’s structure, not unlike a colony of bees only focused on their own selves, mimics Francoism, and we see the young daughter become haunted by this mix of fantasy and reality. The post-Franco transition was not linear, with disagreement about Spain’s future and its role globally. This transition was like a childhood, with conflicting influences yet imagination. We see this tension manifest through the fantasies that Ana experiences, mixed with scenes of her dysfunctional environment. This film subtly critiques the dynamics of 1973-era Spain, and reveals the ability of Francoist Spain to continue to haunt a new era.

    1. Dear Catherine, great annotations. The use of the image of haunting to describe the Fascist regime is particularly accurate. The life and death of political regimes and their “ghosts” take on powerful positions in the childhood (as you put it) of early regimes. I wonder what thoughts can arrive, if we ask questions in terms of life and death? Is facism alive today in Spain? What is the difference between its ghostly nature and its alive one?

  2. As Spain’s government transitioned from a dictatorship to a democracy post Francoist-fascism in 1975, the two major waves or sentiments that swept the country were disenchantment and transition. A country that was existing in such a prolonged period of unconsciousness and blurriness took on the “pacto de olvido” in hopes of erasing the memory of Franco’s fascist and oppressive rule for so long. There was a sort of wall that was removed from in front of everyone’s eyes after censorship and regulations began to be lifted in the world of cinema and other forms of media that had been keeping people under such a sheltered daze for decades. These new realizations and exposures due to the transition to democracy were what Pavlovic referred to as the wave or period of disenchantment.
    The film for this week, The Spirit of the Beehive, emulates or depicts the aggressive state of confusion and uncertainty that came with the second greatest “transition” after the conclusion of the Second Republic over forty years earlier. By utilizing children to exaggerate how little knowledge Spaniards had of the socio-political situation in the country as a whole after Franco’s death, we understand the infantile nonchalant-ness that adults in this film as experiencing as they wait for an authority figure to tell them what to do next. Again, with the country’s increasing efforts to globalize itself and expand its borders as well as pay attention to more transnational cinema influences, we see this exploration depicted in the two young girl’s independence from any parents or guardians as they are constantly wandering about outside and getting into, quite possibly, very dangerous situations being that they’re unattended. The openness of the country as well as the expansions that came about in the few years after Franco’s death are really what this film forces us to analyze.

  3. The Spirit of the Beehive is a poetic and convoluted piece that explores transition and disenchantment that uses different temporalities of the beginning and end of the Spanish dictatorship. The film takes place in 1940, as Franco takes power in Spain, but it was made 33 years later nead the end of Franco’s rule (though unknown at this time). The early 1970s were marked by the “disenchantment” with the illusion that Franco had conceived of his country and the transition into a more democratic state. The Spirit of the Beehive plays with these ideas with the confusion present throughout the entirety of the film and the development of the characters that make up the family.
    Confusion plays a role by indicating that there is no true direction of the film. The plotline of the piece consists of disjunct scenes and no clear narrative arc. While the relationships of the family are explored, there is no way of knowing what is “happening.” This film points to the mundanity of day-to-day life and the way in which many Spaniards felt in entering the new political realm of Francoism. The Second Republic and Spanish Civil War had brought a sense of purpose to many of the Republicans and left-leaning individuals, but the failure of their attempts to establish democracy left an air of hopelessness to their daily lives. The father of the film, who seems to have been a Republican soldier in the civil war, has moved his family to the remote countryside, possibly as a way to escape persecution for his political beliefs and history with the state. This idea of disenchantment with Francoism early on is used in this 1973 film as the same themes haunt the lives of Spaniards at that time, pulling upon the history and linking the beginning and end of fascism in Spain.
    Similarly, the mark of disenchantment signals a change in sentiments and the precursor of the Transition in Spain. The characters help signal this movement as they push the boundaries of their roles as father/husband, mother/wife, and daughter/sister even in the 1940s. The father interacts with his daughters, taking them out into nature and treating them well. The mother has limited interactions with her children and when she does, does so with silence. She also writes to a former lover in a passive act of rebellion to her husband. And finally the daughters act in strange, and independent ways which include exploration, violence, and danger. All of these characters seem to break the traditional familial roles and character types that were prevalent in the Franco era, yet again indicating the idea of transition to a freer state of independence and social movement.

  4. Historical memory can be roughly defined as the collective memory of a group of people around historical events or time periods. This took place during Franco’s regime as many in Spain were “enchanted” by Franco and his political views. This only supported Franco’s position in power as there were less people to oppose him. With his death came the ultimate transition and then the disenchantment. First the people of Spain were forced to reevaluate their lives without Franco as Spain transitioned into a more democratic type of government (the transition) and then they mostly came to realize that he was not so great (the disenchantment). This disillusionment of Franco went against the historical memory of Spain which was a big moment of contempt for the Spanish people.
    The Spirit of the Beehive is a strange film. At first analysis it emulates Frankenstein from the point of view of the girl, however this plot line is not the main focus of the story. For most of the film we are kept in the dark as to what is really going on and this confusion shows us how Spaniards felt post-Franco. They were kept in the dark about Franco’s true actions and intentions and when he died, these things were revealed. This caused lots of stress as a major transition in Spain took place and the film shows this very well. Though it was not particularly humorous (and I love a good comedy) I have enjoyed The Spirit of the Beehive the most out of all our films this year.

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