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Pan's Labyrinth

Posted on 2007.01.27 at 16:40
 Went to see Pan's Labyrinth last night. Considering all the rave reviews, including one comparing it to the Lord of the Rings, I expected to like it much more than I did. Don't get me wrong, I think it was an excellent movie in many ways: original and creative script, beautifully filmed, well-acted, but it was not the movie I was expecting. I was expecting something like Mirrormask (absolutely amazing, if you haven't seen it) or some version of Through the Looking Glass. Instead, this film is very dark and disturbingly violent. And although it has been promoted as a fantasy film featuring a wide-eyed young girl, it is definitely NOT for children!  It is much more about the real-life evil represented by the brutal Spanish civil war of 1936-39 where a group of right-wing generals led by Franco and supported by Hitler and Mussolini toppled the elected leftist government. Into this real historic event is mixed a kind of magical realism involving the faun Pan, and a story about a princess who must face some horrific monsters.  In addition, it is in Spanish, with subtitles, so kids might have a hard time following it.  I repeat, NOT a film for children.

The story is about a young girl named Ofelia who accompanies her mother to a camp to join her step-father, the brutal and sadistic Captain Vidal in the midst of the war.  Her mother is pregnant with the Captain's child and is having a difficult time.  Along the way Ofelia encounters a strange bug which she thinks is a fairy and who becomes her guide into a strange world of myth and magic at the heart of a labyrinth located near the camp.  In the meantime, a real-life struggle is going on between resistance fighters in the hills and the Captain's forces.  Two characters in the camp, the Doctor and the servant, Mercedes, are helping the "rebels" from the inside.   In the course of the story, many horrific things happen to the characters, including graphic torture scenes.  That "real" world is juxtaposed with Ofelia's nightmarish trips in the magical world to confront evil (truly imaginative monsters) and perform tasks to fulfill her mythic role as a princess.  And I have to warn you, many people die by the end.
The theme is that one must always stand up to tyranny, no matter what the cost.  A good theme.  It is also about the transforming power of story, methinks.  Interesting that the Captain's story about his own father's death was what guided him in his obsession with having a son and passing on his father's bizarre legacy.   The part of the story dealing with Pan's Labyrinth is clearly allegorical in nature.

In any case, I do recommend the movie.  Just go, realizing that it is NOT a Lord of the Rings or a Narnia type fantasy and that it has scenes that will disturb and haunt you, most of them having to do with the actions of the Captain, who at one point ironically says, "I am not a monster" but clearly is more a monster than those in the magical realm into which Ofelia escapes.


Fiery Notes
fierynotes at 2007-01-28 06:56 (UTC) (Link)
I loved this movie!

(I could see the end coming, the moment Pan told Ofelia what her third and final task was, but I didn't care. It was still an amazing movie.)
elfscribe5 at 2007-01-28 19:25 (UTC) (Link)
I didn't see the end coming until she brought the baby to Pan, then I got it and I'm thinking, "Don't do it, Ofelia!" But then I didn't expect that ending. More than anything, I think that marked it as a foreign film. Hollywood would never do that. Yep, I'd like to see the Labyrinth parts of it again to dig out all the symbolism, etc. but I'm afraid I can't stomach other parts. I know this is reality, I read that nearly a million people died in that war. I had no idea. But I don't want to dwell on it. Talk about the stories we tell ourselves.
Cheers babe.
ennorwen at 2007-01-28 11:29 (UTC) (Link)


for your review. I've been thinking about it, and I think I will see it, but I'm glad that you've put your thoughts here so I know what to expect. Critics are raving, but that just says that Critics Are Raving. Take that anyway you want.

elfscribe5 at 2007-01-28 19:29 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thanks...

Yeah, Critics are Raving. Heh. Well, as I said, I think it's very creative with lots to think about, but for the promoters to capitalize on the fantasy aspect to lure viewers is a misrepresentation, IMHO. I'd hate to think that I might've taken a kid to see it.
suemichave at 2007-02-04 11:42 (UTC) (Link)
My eldest daughter and I have just seen the movie. She went expecting a fantasy film and was quite shocked at the level of violence, because she didnt expect it. I had read a few things about it and was a little more prepared....still couldnt watch some of it as i dont like violence, particularly when it is so graphically portrayed and so sadistic in nature. We are still debating the 'real' and 'imagined' aspects of it, and will take a while to absorb the symbolism. I think it is a very interesting movie, the film techniques were excellent, the acting very good.
elfscribe5 at 2007-02-04 23:56 (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I think it was a good movie. Just objected to the way they marketed it. I was just talking today to someone who was going to take her kids until I told her how violent it was. Our society just seems obsessed with violence as entertainment. Good to hear your take on it.
ca_tharsis_ at 2007-05-21 22:37 (UTC) (Link)
Okay, this is a pretty thorough summary. I admit, all the creatures were exciting. But they were so few and far between the general drearyness of the story. I could have appreciated this movie a lot more if the marketing for it had been more up front. And if I'd just rented it instead of bought it.

Nice job! Good to hear from you.
elfscribe5 at 2007-05-23 04:41 (UTC) (Link)
Hi sweetie,
Yeah, I wouldn't have wanted to pay for a DVD. I won't be watching it again. Good to hear from you, too.
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