Monday, January 15, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth a review...

On Saturday following a return to Birmingham I saw the film Pan's Labyrinth, recommended to me by a number of people here's my review...

In the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) travels with her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) to stay with her new stepfather Captain Vidal (Sergi López). As Vidal hunts diehard anti-fascist rebels, Ofelia discovers a magical labyrinth in the forest and is given a series of tasks by mysterious faun Pan (Doug Jones)...

A young girl draws a magic chalk door on her bedroom wall and pushes it open. She steps into a banquet hall, where a slumbering monster sits at a table loaded with food. The Pale Man (for that is his name)doesn’t notice her; his deformed, domed head has no eyes, just a bloody mouth and two gaping nostrils. The little girl approaches, terrified but brave. Forgetting every warning, she steals a morsel of food. The Pale Man jerks awake, picking up his eyeballs from the plate in front of him. He inserts the peepers into the palms of his hands and chases her through the corridors...

Guillermo del Toro has created his masterpiece of cinema, Grimm for grown-ups, even us big lugs need bedtime stories..

The film is a disturbing mature movie of two distinct parts - a fantasy consisiting of truly evil, monsters, bewitched trees, repulsive toads and fairies and a brutal depiction of the burning embers of the Spanish Civil War.

Imagine Return to Oz mixed with Alice in Wonderland, spinkled effortlessly with Tim Burton and David Cronenberg. The director known for more recent Hollywood fare as Hellboy, Blade 2 and Mimc has returned to his passion, the Spanish civil War first encapsulated in his original spanish movie the Devil's Backbone.

Viewing the bloody aftermath of the war from the point of the child heroine Ofelia , del Toro splits the action between reality and fantasy.
When she is lead to an abandoned labyrinth hidden in the forest, by a cricket turned fairy.Ofelia finds a faun, Pan, who tells her she’s a princess from the underworld. Like any self-respecting fawn (hello Mr Tumnus I'm talking about you), he can’t be completely trusted – his attentions laced with threat and menace.
Ofelia accepts the series of tasks he gives her to complete.

The fantasy world created is simply astonishing and you're left at the end with a sense of bewilderment much like the fantasy world Ofelia inhabits. Every moment of the fantasy world is dripping with vivid, intoxicating colour, slime and a rich depth that is unsurpassed.

Pan’s world is a dark malevolent fantasy, but it’s nowhere near as dark and disturbing as the world Ofelia’s trying to escape from.

There, her stepfather Captain Vidal rules his military post with vicious violence as he tries to stamp out left-wing guerrillas hiding in the woods. The irony being that in a world construted of monsters, creatures and predators, the true monster is set firmly in reality a fascist ogre stamping on anyone or anything in his way.
You are left with the question who is the most vile of creatures? Which world is the most horrific? Spain under the guise of fascism, or the underworld manipulated by the guise of Pan?

The FX and fantasy are superb but it's the politcal conscience of the real world as seen by Ofelia that is the central conceit.

I was expecting more Labyrinth and less historical dissection but on reflection the film's strength lies in the evil that men do.

Stark, disturbing a fairy tail for adults with a delight in the macabre. Its provocative vision of the monsters of fascism and a childhood imagination is chilling.
While not quite essential viewing it's close and lingers in the mnd longer than most.

Pan's Labyrinth Trailer


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