Friday, February 09, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

Here it is, the promised review, as spoiler-free as possible. It will be rather biased, though, because I loved Pan's Labyrinth to bits and will hence proceed to rave about it and about how perfect it is in every possible way. Well, almost. If you haven't seen it already, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? GO. WATCH. NOW!!

Right, so, where to begin? A brief synopsis might be in order here. Well, Pan's Labyrinth is set in Franco's Spain and juxtaposes the story of the antifascist struggle against the regime to young Ofelia's retreat into an extremely creepy fantasy world. The film takes place almost entirely in a military campsite deep in a mountainous and forested area, with lots of eerie-looking woodland to add to the setting. There's Mercedes, one of the servants, there's Ofelia, there's Ofelia's mum, and then there's Ofelia's mum's husband, the Capitan. The Capitan is a bad, bad man. Ofelia doesn't want to call the Capitan 'father'; all she wants is to read her books and sit with her depressed mum and be left alone. But she's also extremely observant and curious and innocent, and she discovers a portal to a hidden world, one day, guided by a slightly shifty-looking faun. She's not going to be left alone after that.

The interplay between fairy tale and reality is astonishing. Ofelia's fantasy is populated with typical fantastic creatures and, very much in the manner of classic fairy tales, she has several 'tasks' to fulfil. My memory of the literary conventions of fairy tales is somewhat rusty, but I do remember Karl Popper and the elements he identified. Popper talked about protagonists and antagonists, tasks and magical helpers, balance and disequilibrium. Ofelia's tasks may be all rather magical in nature, but her antagonist is human and unambiguosly real. Her helpers are the Faun and Mercedes; one magical, one human. The disequilibrium is constant and overwhelming; people get murdered in this film, but not by monsters; by other people.
This, perhaps, is what makes the film such a powerful experience. Well, that and the fact that the acting is amazing, the storyline gripping, the ambiance just the right amount of eerie.
The fantasy world and the real world are so tightly interwoven that the viewer (in this case, me) entertains serious doubts as to the fictionality of Ofelia's world. Is it really just in her imagination, or is it somewhat more concrete than that? Del Toro never gives us a definitive answer, but to overemphasise this question would be, in my opinion, deceptive. It doesn't really matter if Del Toro meant for the Faun and the giant toad and the Pale Man (see below, but don't be scared, it's just a photo) to be real, or if he meant them to be figments of Ofelia's imagination. What matters is that they are there and that they feel real to Ofelia.

That's the point, I suppose. Believing is what counts, it's what brings hope and makes everything better. Another point is that you shouldn't stress children out by smashing bottles into people's faces (don't look at me like that, it happened in the film!), because otherwise their fantasy world will have fairies that look like grasshoppers and toads that live in the dirty, dirty mud. Ew.

Next review: Music and Lyrics. Best romantic comedy I've seen since You've Got Mail.


Sunday, February 04, 2007

Randomisms III

Friends, Romans, countrymen...

I am back. This time for real.

Fo’ sho’!

Moving on.

This shall hopefully be the last in a series of posts in which I moan about uni life, mostly because uni life is finally starting to become a little more than bearable. Yes, dear readers, I am actually doing fine this term.

Your comments on the previous posts were much appreciated. I’m not trying to say that I’m glad none of you had it easy in uni, but I was rather relieved to know I wasn’t the only one. As airy voices says, it’s good to know!

Nitin suggests Scrubs as comfort food. I have yet to be sucked into the Scrubs mania, but I am doing a lot more in the way of watching movies and generally suspending disbelief for a couple of hours, at least once a week. Just an hour ago, in fact, I was busy watching Pan’s Labyrinth – MASTERPIECE. But more on that soon, as I think it deserves a post of its own.

Ash wisely advises finding my own niche. Well, I seem to have found a small number of niches to squeeze into. I’ve stopped trying to be close to everyone. That truly is impossible, unless you are some kind of rabid social animal, which I’m obviously not. And really, it’s useless to pretend to be. All it does is make me tired, grumpy and unhappy. You’ll be happy to know that I am no longer permanently tired, grumpy and unhappy. And I’m now close enough to people to practice my very own brand of sarcastic, derisive humour. You’d be surprised how much people enjoy being made fun of, as long as they’re sure you’re joking.

Whether you are joking or not is your own little secret, of course.

Szerelem (whom Pan and I have met – did we mention that?) reiterates the universal truth of the ubiquity of idiocy. Oooh, I like that. The Ubiquity of Idiocy: a universal truth. I should write a book. Anyway, having established that idiocy is, in fact, ubiquitous, it is much easier to embrace that and move on, is it not? Well, it is for me.

The all-knowing Pan tells me that the first term is always the worst term. How right she is! No amount of monetary compensation could ever persuade me to go through Freshers’ Week again; forced conversation, forced smiling, forced niceties, forced everything… Those were possibly the most exhausting and draining three days of my life. But they’re over now, and I’m free to ignore people that I don’t like, and I can stay in my room if I want to without feeling like I should be out there, socialising at all costs.

Sophia points out the importance of direction. Hmm. Well, I am currently seriously considering doing linguistics in my third year; apparently, you can switch to that after two years and get some kind of double degree. The more I think about it, the more I realise that what I really, really love is knowing how languages work. I just never knew you could get a degree out of it! So yeah, I am seriously thinking about that. Of course, in TPF-world, that means I won’t start doing any research or talking to anyone about it until the last possible minute. Viva procrastination!

In summary, I am taking matters into my own hands, dear friends. So far, so good. Very soon, I shall post about Pan’s Labyrinth, and then maybe, maybe I shall start introducing you to some of the people that populate my new social circle. Be there.

Or be square.

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