Sunday, January 14, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

I went to this movie expecting a slightly dark fantasy flick. You know, like The Neverending Story meets The Dark Crystal. What I got was Irreversible. I have seen snuff films with less violence.
The movie takes place in 1944 in fascist Spain. The movie's main character, an imaginative little girl named Ofelia, is the step-daughter of a very cruel army captain. The movie starts with Ofelia and her pregnant mother moving onto the Captain's post, which is located in a dreamy, unnamed, deciduous forest in the Spanish countryside. While wandering in the forest, Ofelia encounters a fairy, who leads her into a fantastic world of faun's, ogres, and secrets. In between Ofelia's encounters with the fantasy world (which are surprisingly few and far between) her mother is falling ill, and her mercilessly cruel stepfather is trying to quash the guerrilla warfare in the countryside by using the most brutal of practices.
I walked out of the theatre thinking I had just seen one and half movies. The stepfather gets more screen-time than the main character, and almost all of his scenes involve intense violence. This movie focused more on the harshness of warfare rather than cherishing of wonderment. I felt like I saw a whole war movie, than half of a dark fantasy movie.
I guess the key to enjoying this movie is knowing what to expect. It is well written, directed, and had excellent acting. However, it is more of a war movie than a fantasy film. It is not, repeat NOT, a film for kids. In fact, anyone, at any age, who has a weak stomach should stay away from this film. But if you like good film-making, and you don't cringe at violence not unlike the worst scenes from Saw, then knock yourself out. Oh, and surprisingly, most people where unaware that the movie foreign, so it has subtitles. Now you know.


Reel Fanatic said...

I didn't realize this one was so insanely violent, so thanks for the warning .. it seems like it's been out for five years now already, but I'm cautiously optomistic it will reach my little corner of the world when it finally plays wider next week

E said...

From your comments i was bracing myself and expected a lot more violence than what appeared on the screen. It was less violent than Reservoir Dogs. I think you felt you saw two movies because this is a Mexican movie and not a Spanish movie, that is to say that it is Latin American not European. This movie is classic and exquisitely crafted Magic Realism, Ofelia (by the way it might make more sense if the subtitles had translated her name Ophelia, get it?) is classic for this genre both innocent and wise, from a single exchange she knows the maid is colaborating with the guerrillas. I have to disagree, the fantasy scenes weren't few and far appart rather the fantasy was weaved into the film only the most overtly fantastical scenes were few. Take into account that a fairy presented itself very early in the movie and Ofelia instantly recongizes it as such. Knowing it was Mexican I was also more prepared for the complete lack of cherished wonderment. I think this is a wonderful film to start an exploration of latin amreican sensebilities when it comes to the use of fantasy and the parallel worlds that exist next to each other, e.g. adult/child, master/servnat, male/female, science/magic. Also if you take a look at more Latin american literature and films you will see the same archetypes, the little girl, the doctor, the military officer, the maid. playing very similar roles but with endless nuance.