Thursday, December 14, 2006

Pan's Labyrinth (film review)

Saw Guillermo del Toro's modern day fairy tale last night, El Laberinto del Fauno or "Pan's Labyrinth" in English.

It's an excellent movie (9/10) - so watch it first (but be warned that it is quite brutal in places), then read on!

This is the first film I've seen by this director and it encourages me to seek out more of his works. The story is very good, but not perfect - I feel there could have been more intricacy and neater parallels in the fairy-world with Ofelia's real-world life.

The character design and acting, though, is absolutely perfect. The baby-eating terror in particular is one of the most menacing characters I've seen in the cinema. Ofelia is wonderfully portrayed mixing youthful dreams with the realities of life as a twelve year old ( and the look of dejection on her face where she emerges from the burrow only to find her neatly folded dress blown into the mud is priceless). Mercedes is also powerfully realised and the Captain is sadistic and delusional (assured of his cause and what's 'right' in the world) to the bitter end.

Elements of the story, especially some of the narration, are also excellent - weaving a magical web around the events in the story - but I left feeling that the tale could have - should have - had a little more bite. There was a chance to really leave the viewer wondering about whether the fairy-scenes were real or imagined, but to do this there would need to be clearer parallels between the fairy-world characters and the real ones. As it is, it's 9/10 instead of 10/10.

The toad under the tree could be conceived of as Franco, or fascism, sucking the life out of Spain. If the faun is possibly imagined it's a neat touch that she seems to trust it unquestioningly until Mercedes warns her that "Faun's are tricky". But what is the inspiration for the hand-eyed terror? But perhaps this is an allegory to some part of Spanish culture or history that I do not know.

Still, it is an excellent movie and probably the best I've seen recently.


At 12:46 AM, Blogger Christian said...

Note to self!

I found del Toro's own description of the Pale Man (hand-eyed monster):
"I think the silhouette is very elegant and simple," del Toro says. "What makes this guy scary is that he isn't in any hurry." The Pale Man is meant to represent the church as a faceless institution, the self-described lapsed Catholic adds. "He can represent fascism or a big, destructive, organized religion."

From USA Today


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