Pan's Labyrinth

2007-10-08 12:59
 
Synopsis:

In 1944, Spain is in the throes of a civil war. Young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) travel to the hills where her step-father (Sergi Lopez), a cruel and dispassionate captain in the fascist military, is seeking to suppress a band of peasant guerrillas. On the way, Ofelia “sees” a fairy in the form of a large and unusual stick insect. Before long she is led into a labyrinth, where a mysterious Pan-like creature tells her a remarkable secret, and demands that she undertake three tasks.

Review:

El Laberinto del Fauno is without a doubt one of modern cinema’s most captivating and beautifully shot films, doubly so if viewed in its original Spanish. Among many noteworthy traits, there is an awe-inspiring sense of craft about it; notions of both wonder and darkness that are equally deep and extreme, though not in the places you’d expect.

The English title, Pan’s Labyrinth, is by the director’s own admission an unfortunate anomaly of translation. In Western mythology, Pan has associations with religion; but the character referred to in this story is a faun, a mythical creature partially resembling a goat, sure, but in no other way associated with The Pan.

But that doesn’t make the characterization less vivid. Doug Jones’ Faun is strangely beautiful yet scary. And in truth, that explanation goes a long way to describing the film as a whole.

In director Guillermo del Toro’s vision, real darkness resides in the real world, and despite initial appearances, the faun’s magical realm may be dangerous, but is not nearly as horrific. Indeed, in del Toro’s film, the real monsters are real people in the real world, while the creatures that appear to, speak to, and ultimately lead Ofelia to her destiny are not so clear-cut.

It’s difficult to elaborate on characters in a story concept drawn from archetypes (as most fairy-tales are), but knowing nods are apparent to many classical structures - Alice in Wonderland is one obvious example.

Be warned: part fairy tale this story might be, but there are scenes of shocking on-screen and suggested violence – most of which is not fantasy violence. At one point a hapless peasant is pistol-whipped in graphic detail, while in another scene a meticulous torture method is explained by way of instruments to the point of toe-curling revulsion. It is not a film for children by any stretch of the imagination.

Kudos to a cast of genuinely affecting actors, who offer warm, authentic characters. The film’s design is outstanding – look out for The Pale Man (don’t eat anything!) - and the beautiful, quiet soundtrack, punctuated by occasional bangs and explosions whenever the insurgents are encountered, make for a beautiful symphony of sound. Try to see it in a cinema with a proper sound system.

Yet what truly elevates El Laberinto is its seamless integration of parallel storylines. Carmen’s troublesome pregnancy, the fascist/guerrilla conflict and Ofelia’s adventures in the labyrinth are ingeniously paced and overlapped. This makes for a film that can be sold as mostly fantasy, but is firmly rooted in human drama and political intrigue. In short: a masterpiece.

- Anton Marshall
Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece is without a doubt one of most captivating, disturbing and beautifully shot films ever made. Don't take the kids though.

William Milne 2007/07/06 11:15 AM
Pan's Labyrinth The best movie I've seen in years.What a treat.
Charl 2007/07/06 11:39 AM
See it Couldn't wait for the local release, so bought the dvd overseas. Have watched it over and over. Go see it, but yes, be warned, don't take the kids!!!!
Nokia N76 2007/07/07 8:40 AM
Great Movie ! Also bought the DVD at heathrow on a stopover. Abolutely Great movie. Very glad Anton did the review. Can just Imagine what Mr Fairweather would have doen with the review !!
hein 2007/07/09 3:43 PM
Do not understand the hype I went to see this movie with great expectations , but sadly it all fell flat for me. I have seen lots of movies with better special effects , deeper stories , better characters , more violence , better soundtracks etc etc and it is really irritating to keep on having to look down to read what is being said ( so maybe I missed the magic moments ) - but still it keeps on turning over in my head. Am I just too shallow or maybe too deep for this movie ? Puzzling . I would suggest that you rather go see "The Fountain". That is a masterpiece in my eyes
Paul 2007/07/18 11:05 AM
Comparison Would like to know how it compares to "the lord of the rings"?
Gary 2007/07/19 2:02 PM
Pans Labyrinth been waiting for this movie for ages - was sent a copy a few weeks back but waited for it to open on the big screen before watching it - DVD's never match up to seing it on the big screen - I personally enjoyed the fact that it was sub-titled as it added another angle to what is a masterpiece. The characters were well thourght out, the animation not to much, not to little but just perfect and the contrast between the human world and another world was special. It really is a great piece of work, just like cronos and the devils backbone. go see it, enjoy it and enjoy the Pale man as the only negative thing i have to say about the film is, the pale man needed a much bigger role.
Gary 2007/07/19 2:02 PM
Pans Labyrinth been waiting for this movie for ages - was sent a copy a few weeks back but waited for it to open on the big screen before watching it - DVD's never match up to seing it on the big screen - I personally enjoyed the fact that it was sub-titled as it added another angle to what is a masterpiece. The characters were well thourght out, the animation not to much, not to little but just perfect and the contrast between the human world and another world was special. It really is a great piece of work, just like cronos and the devils backbone. go see it, enjoy it and enjoy the Pale man as the only negative thing i have to say about the film is, the pale man needed a much bigger role.
johan 2007/12/27 6:53 PM
a masterpiece seldom does an audience have the pleasure of watching moviemaking craft this good ... the subtiltles definately add to the intensity of the viewing as one is using an additional sense to enjoy this production ... a sad time in history and indeed an evokative movie ... tough to watch and experience, but please please give us more like this ...
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