Thursday, August 14, 2008

Pan's Labyrinth

I finally watched it, much later than I originally intended. I knew going in that it wasn't a pure fantasy film, with Ofelia's psychotic stepfather chasing down rebels after the Spanish Civil War playing a large part, but I didn't expect the balance to be tipped quite so far towards the period stuff. It wasn't a detriment to the film, with that aspect being as intriguing as the fantasy parts, it's just not what I thought I'd see. del Toro's done some big (if quirky) Hollywood action movies like Hellboy and the upcoming adaptation of The Hobbit, but he does a lot of work in his native Spanish like this, and the film is clearly a labor of love. It's completely unflinching, and no corners were cut to make it more accessible. Besides being filmed in Spanish with an unknown cast (outside of Mexico), the supernatural elements aren't played to be kid-friendly at all and the violence is starkly brutal.

You see it mostly in the "real" world, and mostly caused by Captain Vidal. There are some strange things to be seen, but he stands out as the most distinctive part. Watching him after a point is like watching a train wreck. I've heard people say the movie doesn't glorify violence, but it sure doesn't mind lingering on it, sometimes showing more than they probably have to. He doesn't cross the line of showing too much though, it's not what I'd call horror or anything. I did flinch quite a bit though. The violence does a tremendous job of characterizing the captain and showing why Ofelia needs her imagination just to get away.

Besides the mesmerizing visuals, which really are truly fantastic besides one weak CG-created creature, the story of the movie is quite good. Ofelia has some traits of an annoyingly dumb protagonist, messing things up which could have easily been avoided, but she's still sympathetic because of the gravity of the situation and how she ultimately deals with it. The plot isn't exactly complicated, but there's enough to it to stay interesting, and the script and direction are very good about letting you figure out what's happening instead of beating you over the head with it, and cluing you in on certain details with smart camera work instead of exposition. The ending is ambiguous, but in a way that I found interesting to think about. My biggest complaint is really that I just wanted to see more of the world, both inside the labyrinth and out. Along with Children of Men, it's a great film from 2006 by a Mexican director that I waited too long to see.

1 comment:

sluggwood said...

Yar, tis a dark one. I recommend viewing The Devil's Backbone as well. Pan's Labyrinth is supposedly a "spiritual sequel" to TDB, although there really isn't much of a similarity.