Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

Pan's Labyrinth, aka "This is how you do a dark fairytale, Tim Burton", is a wonderful film on numerous levels. Visually, it's breathtaking. Conceptually, it's interesting. Metaphorically, it's powerful.

Set in Spain during the fallout of the Franco civil war, Pan's Labyrinth is the story of a little girl named Ofelia. Ofelia's mother has remarried after her husband was killed in the war, her new lover is a Captain in Franco's army tasked with cleaning up rebel resistance in the mountain forests and he takes the girl and her mother to live with him at his outpost. Faced with being in the middle of a guerilla war and the contempt of her new stepfather, Ofelia retreats into a fantasy world that may or may not be true.

Guillermo del Toro makes easy work of blending the fantastical world into that of the real one, and uses the creatures monsters of the fairytale world to shed light on the more conspicuous monsters that look just like us in the real world. Some of the political metaphors may be a little heavy handed (Spoilers: fascism is bad, who'd have guessed?) but in the context of the film it's easy to live with.

It's the attention to detail in both sides of the coin that makes Pan's Labyrinth a beautiful movie to look at. Del Toro has put as much effort in bringing alive the disparity between those fascist enablers in the form of the Captain's soldiers and the resistance/civilians as he does the magical world. He could have easily made the film about just the fallout of the Spanish civil war and it would be praised just as much for its aesthetic. The fantasy side is gorgeous though: people formed out of the very earth and bark that they inhabit, monsters that sit as silent guardians until opening their eyes in particularly unique ways and a world that looks like Narnia had a bad experience on acid bring the film to life.

Pan's Labyrinth topped a lot of lists in 06/07, and sits in the top 100 for many publications'/critics' all time lists. I'm not so sure I'd rank it that highly myself, but it's a must watch for everyone at some point, if only so you can see what someone like Tim Burton could be capable of if he put some real emotion behind his work other than "I look like a depressing goth but I'm actually pretty nice".

Oh, and just so you know, it's filmed in Spanish so if you're one of those people who absolutely refuses to watch anything with subtitles (because you're lazy) give it a miss. To be fair though, Guillermo del Toro penned all the English subtitles personally, so there's absolutely zero hits taken by the script when you're not a Spanish speaker.

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