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October 18, 2006

Pan's Labyrinth, 2006

panslabyrinth.gifDuring the Q&A for Pan's Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro commented that he conceived the image of Pale Man, a child-eating creature who could only see by raising his hands up to his face (as if paradoxically covering his eyes), as an allusion to the perverted image of stigmata - an affliction often associated with enlightened grace and saint-like piety - an acerbic, tongue-in-cheek commentary on the destructiveness, corruption, and myopia of institutional authority that the Church (and Fascism) represents. The evocation proves particularly relevant within the context of the incestuous alliance between the Nationalists and the Catholic Church during the Spanish Civil War that installed, and subsequently enabled, the repressive regime of General Franco. Set in 1944, the year that the annals of history have officially annotated as the year that the Republicans were defeated, thus marking the end of the civil war, reality proves less than neatly conclusive as the insurgency rages on (and would continue for nearly two decades), the resistance fighters fortifying their strongholds in the mountains with the covert aid of sympathetic villagers. It is against this turbulent, isolated environment of unresolved battles and nebulous allegiances that a ruthless officer named Captain Vidal (Sergi López) has been sent to establish an outpost and stamp out the mountain insurgency campaign - a strange, remote, and verdant rural region that a young girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) also reluctantly enters when Vidal sends for his new wife, Ofelia's mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) from the city so that his anticipated son and heir may be born in the house of his father. From the introductory images of Ofelia preciously holding her fairytale books and her curious sighting of a wasp-like insect that she believes is an actual fairy, Ofelia's inevitable confrontation between the harsh reality of adolescence and the escapist fantasy of childhood seems inextricably connected. Shuttered in an old, gloomy, and mysteriously creaking house with an adjoining derelict garden labyrinth, and left to her own devices after her mother becomes bedridden with complications from the baby's imminent birth (except for the attention given by the housekeeper, Mercedes (Maribel Verdú)), the neglected Ofelia embarks on a heroic quest at the behest of the inscrutable, mythical fawn, Pan (Doug Jones) in order to prove herself as the reincarnated princess of the labyrinth, and consequently, fulfill her destiny of immortality. Evoking the early, metaphor-laden cinema of Victor Erice in manifesting a child's fear and uncertainty through the gothic figurations of the imagination - not only in the overt parallel of the metamorphosed, humanized monster of Spirit of the Beehive, but also in the mythification of an absent father in El Sur (note the fetishized pocket watch that Valdez retains as a souvenir of the moment of his father's death) - Pan's Labyrinth is an intelligently rendered, provocative, and incisive cautionary tale on barbarism, repression, narcissism, rigid ideology, blind obedience, and inhumanity.

Posted by acquarello on Oct 18, 2006 | | Filed under 2006, New York Film Festival


Here's the film I'm just dying to see. I've heard similiar enthusiasm as well. Great review.

Posted by: Jeremy on Nov 16, 2006 8:11 PM | Permalink

Yup, it's a pretty safe bet that there's not another film out there that looks remotely like this one. The integration of animation, CGI and live action is pretty amazing.

Posted by: acquarello on Nov 16, 2006 10:07 PM | Permalink

I just saw this one. I am a bit late.

I love the fairy-tale part of the story. Ofelia is played very well and I love these fairy characters.

Actually entire story is very interesting and nice but the acting, and I must say directing, is so disappointing!

The girl is actually the only one who can act. Maybe Mercedes character is also depicted in professional manner. But the rest is just depicted in "two dimensions". Good guys versus bad guys. Black versus white. Good versus evil. And it is so predictable. And the captain is just a comic character. A caricature!

I see a lot in common with "Devils backbone". Also in this film the acting and directing was really bad.

But I love the fairy part of the movie, and it is such a disappointement that the other half of the picture was such a failure.

Opportunity wasted!

Posted by: Lecho on Mar 08, 2007 4:26 AM | Permalink

I thought that the black and white world was in keeping with the fairytale quality of the film though. By the same token, the cardboard cutout characters also fit that idea. I actually thought that it more of the "adult" elements like the violence and gore that seemed out of place.

Posted by: acquarello on Mar 08, 2007 6:47 PM | Permalink

I was actually playing with the idea that this was made on purpose too. It seems like the world seen through the eyes of the little girl.

But I have seen other films of del Tore. He can not instruct his actors.

It would be easier to accept if this was a movie for kids, but I guess it is not.

I just can't stand bad acting.

Posted by: Lecho on Mar 09, 2007 3:50 AM | Permalink

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