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.



Blogger ash said...

First of all it's ok to be biased - it's a film review. Now you'd really be biased if, say, someone you knew was in the film or maybe you just really liked the name "Pan".

Also, Karl Popper references in a film review? You really done some mighty fine book-learning at that there college of yours. :P

I wonder if you can manage the same academic approach with Music & Lyrics - now there's a challenge!
Also, was You've Got Mail really supposed to be a comedy of any kind? Because in my mind it was just...romantic. For some reason though that genre seems to have been wiped from everyone's memory.

9:45 PM  
Blogger niTin said...

Sadly, I'm from the other faction. The faction that did not like Pan's Labyrinth. Don't get me wrong, the movie is beautiful. Beautiful enough that you could take scenes from the movie and hang it on your living-room wall, (not the one you put there on the blog though). But the "grippyness" of the plot is just missing. I knew exactly what's going to happen when they zoomed in on the sleeping potion. The gore is the only thing that seems to make the movie "real", and that's because the director was ready to go places, few were. Though I still wonder whether anyone heard about a movie with a twelve year-old protagonist, fairies and decided to take their child for it. It's one of those few ones that can scar a child for life. Methinks we might have a serial-killer in the offing.
Now, continuing my rant... You said you didn't like The Prestige. That's just outrageous. The Prestige was one awesome grippy movie. I mean, the guy's (Nolan)only problem is that he doesn't go from point A to point B in a straight line, instead tries to bring Y and S together. Hardly a fault you couldn't forgive.

11:23 PM  
Blogger Panacea said...

I actually really liked the movie. I thought that there was too much gore shown in some scenes. By this, I mean gore for the sake of gore. The actress playing Ofelia has acted wonderfully. The whole effect with the juxtaposition of fantasy with reality was really great

PS: GAH, did you just make random Karl Popper references? Your TOK teacher would be sooo proud :)

12:08 AM  
Blogger Szerelem said...

Ah!!! Excellent stuff…and I completely agree with you. I thought Lopez was beyond excellent as Ofelias father. He could have easily become a complete caricature.
And P.S. Love muchly the Karl Popper reference :P
Though it reminded me I need to study for my Philosophy of Science mid term….so in your next review do we expect random geeky references to Kuhn?
And I asked a favour on my comments page….if I am being a pain you can tell me to run away :P

3:06 PM  
Blogger Raindrop said...

It was one of those rare movies that satisfied both my inner soppy fantasy-loving little girl, AND my inner hardened cynic.

I loved it!

5:31 PM  

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