Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth - Review

Listening to: Long, Long Time Ago from Pan's Labyrinth soundtrack

Wow. It was so wonderful, I was blown away. Everything good you have read about it is true. After one viewing it's on my list of favourite movies.

In short, it's a fairytale for adults. The dark, gothic sensibility ranges from earthiness to brutality, visceral to brooding, making the scenes of sweetness, beauty and light even more brilliant and delightful. Visually rich, attentive to detail, scary, gruesome, emotive. You feel such empathy for Ofelia, the film's little girl heroine.

The fairytale magical realm, Ofelia's world, and the rest of the world are intertwined. You can't be sure which one is real or intruding on the other. Is all of this magic really happening or is it just in her head? Right up until the end you can't be 100% sure. After a while you figure, "that couldn't have happened otherwise so it must be real".

Definitely not to be confused with Jim Henson's film Labyrinth. It's absolutely nothing like it. The story is set during the civil war, 1944 in Fascist Spain. The MA rating is well justified, this is NOT a family film. There are several particularly gruesome scenes. Two of these made me wince and screw up my face though I kept on watching because I didn't want to miss anything. I won't say which ones but those who have seen it will probably guess. I could hear others in the audience making stifled sounds of alarm at the time.

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The Pale Man was terrifying - I felt scared for Ofelia. It wasn't just the creepy eyes in his hands, it was the pictures on the wall letting you know what he could/would do, the way he staggered about and ripped into ... things.

Pan himself was a bit creepy. You couldn't be completely sure if he was noble in his intentions. Traditionally fauns are ambiguous creatures. That certainly made him more interesting as a character. He made rattle noises like the alien from Predator and had a temper, yet his blue eyes were seemed to have such a kindness about them. How did they made him walk? Was he was a man in a costume with some animatronics or CGI? After revisiting the website it looks as if they have added extra features, and I have my answer.

Another creature of note is the giant toad. It was kind of cute in a way that only toads can be. The scene with it and Ofelia reminded me a bit of a scene from the NeverEnding Story. Atreyu the warrior child is in the Swamp of Sadness covered in mud and encounters the giant tortoise, Morla. I guess it was the mud soaked, brown haired, wide eyed child and cold blooded, moist critter splattering the kid in mucous-mud-goop that did it :P Don't take mention of this to mean I think it's derivative because it isn't. This film is nothing like anything else I have seen and I'm a connoisseur of fantasy and magic :)

I can't recommend it highly enough. Loved it.

Website of the Day
Pan's Labyrinth Official Website
Features multimedia and excerpts from Del Toro's sketchbook, character design sketches and behind the scenes make-up photos. You can also listen to the entire movie soundtrack as available on CD.

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