Saturday, January 13, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

1944, rural Spain. Such is the backdrop for Guillermo del Toro’s Labyrinthian effort, a dark and twisted fantasy set beside a dark and twisted reality.

Both fantasy and reality tell the story of Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), a pre-teen sent to live on an army base with her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) and new stepfather (Sergo López), the latter a brutal and unhinged army captain with a penchant for torture and impulsive murder.

Obsessed with fairytales, Ofelia creates fantasy in her own mind until she comes across a faun, Pan, (Doug Jones) in a dilapidated stone maze on the base grounds.

Though it may sound like earlier fantasy incarnations such as Wizard of Oz or the similarly titled Labyrinth, this is not a movie for children. The majority of the film focuses on conflict: between the army and the rebels, between the main characters (including Maribel Verdú’s stunning performance as sympathetic servant Mercedes), between fantasy and reality. The violence is unflinching, visceral to the point of disturbing, and the dark, overcast tones are almost as unsettling.

Then there’s the fantasy. The creatures are fantastical, certainly, but carry with them the sort of darkness one should always associate with the grimmest of fairytales. Disney this ain’t, more a reflection of a mind so consumed and surrounded by atrocity.

But even though the frames are painted with the darkest brush, it’s not all doom and gloom. In Ofelia, a sense of innocence is found. Reality is not black and white, rather a state of mind consumed by adulthood.
There are very few drawbacks. Some of the symbolism is inspired, the costume and set design are artistic masterpieces, yet retain their staunch realism. But though the reality aspect of the film is explored to the fullest and most effective, some of the fantasy sequences feel short and lack sufficient build-up (especially a scene involving a giant toad). This is a minor draback, however, and cannot diminish the impact of what is a brilliantly visual, emotional, and psychological journey.

And if you don’t like the symbolic stuff, there’s some pretty cool monsters.

11 comments:

Rohan Williams said...

Nice review. Were I not limited to a bullshit 200 words, I'd have liked to get into that sort of detail, too. The bit about Ofelia's state of mind refusing to be consumed by adulthood pretty much sums up the whole movie.

You up for 'The Fountain' on Monday night? I don't know many other folks who'd really 'get' it.

Grace Suter said...

...what time? I have to work til 6.

Grace Suter said...

Oh, and don't try to text me at the moment cos my phone got wet and I have to wait for it to dry out before it'll turn on again. Incovenient, I know.

200 words sucks arse, btw.

Rohan Williams said...

Turns out, the screening's actually at 10:30 in the morning, so it probably won't fit into your schedule. Someone (ie me) should have checked that earlier, sorry.

Grace Suter said...

Hmm... yeah, I start work at 2. Where is it? How long is it? Maybe I can get a train/bus to work from the movie and make it on time.

Rohan Williams said...

It's at the UIP Theatrette in Milton. I can show you where that is once you get to Milton, if you're keen. It goes 96 minutes.

Grace Suter said...

I reckon I can do it. Is it near the train station?

Rohan Williams said...

Yeah, just a couple of blocks away. It should be a good flick: Hugh Jackman + time travel =coolness.

Grace Suter said...

Sounds awesome!

I can get off the train at either 10:10 or 9:40. What if we meet at the train station. You pick which time. I don't know how long I'll need to leave to walk there.

Rohan Williams said...

10:10 sounds perfect. See ya there!

Grace Suter said...

See ya there!

If you need to contact me, it's best to just post a comment here in case my phone hasn't started working yet. I'll check it before I leave tomorrow.