Shot in gorgeous black and white, Valley of the Bees creates a unique and haunting world reminiscent of the kind of Goth architecture or statues you'd find in Prague on a cloudy day around the St Charles bridge. It's a beautiful film and a great transfer. The accompanying booklet giving a run-down of Vlacil's previous and later films is a nice touch.
In terms of interest and the level to which one is consumed by the plot, I'd put the film at around 4 stars perhaps. The story itself is a bit scary, following the logic of complete devotion to a religious ideal to its farthest extent. The movie exceeds itself in the ancient world it creates, a convincing world, but the end impression is that you are witnessing something vaguely familiar, a slice of an epoch from the history of ancient Europe. As such it seems to delve deeply not only into the psyche of Western culture (on which religion has had more than a little influence), but of human nature as well (as fanaticism has surely manifested itself in more than just religion). The film is a study of the sacred and the profane, which is which? I can understand why communist rule at the time of the release of this film wanted to quelch it. Beyond its setting within a Goth Christian world and it's vision of salvation, it seems to leave one to question the effects of any Machiavellian slavishness to an ideal. Powerful stuff.