Pan’s Labyrinth

Guillermo del Toro was born, raised, and film-schooled in Guadalajara. But the two Spanish-language films he made before staying in the Hollywood mainstream—where he's been splashing around with big-budget money (or thrashing around with failed or stalled projects) ever since—looked back to Mexico's colonizer. The second, Pan's Labyrinth (2006), remains his most acclaimed and respected work, a kind of Euro-art-film horror fairy-tale. But it's not quite the grotesque, macabre fantasy-masterpiece that some have made it out to be.

The story's woven around the legend of a dead princess, Moanna, who seems to have returned in 1944 (post-Civil War) Spain in the form of Ofelia (Ivana Baquero). She comes to a country estate with her recently widowed mother (Ariadna Gil), now remarried to a Nationalist captain (Sergi López) eager to root out the republicans still hiding in the hills. The housekeeper (Maribel Verdú) and doctor (Álex Angulo), though, are clandestinely helping those guerrillas. Family façades, fatherly love and blood-bonds seep out inkily from the shadows. Ofelia's magical-world meetings or three tasks, from the forest goat-god in an underworld lair to her slaying of a huge toad within a dying fig tree and escape from a palm-seeing ghoul at a banquet table, still spook and enthrall.

But there's a drawn-out-ness to the plot (the housekeeper and doctor's secret is over-elaborated, for instance) that extends to the time-period being overdrawn. Captain Vidal's such an overstated fatherland (he has daddy issues) fascist: the scowl or sneer, the leather gloves pulled off one finger at a time, the squeaking and polished boots, his brutal murder of two farmers (the violence here can be indulgently explicit), his ominous flicking-open of a straight razor. He seems more unreal, like the evil step-parent of a fairy-tale, than the fairies and fauns around Ofelia. The political history he anchors becomes morbid melodrama; Franco's Spain is too like a fable, a distant, far-off, not-quite-real place. And so the power of the fantasy-plot as an echo of a horrible, all-too-true reality is diminished. In Pan's Labyrinth, unlike in the best grim (and Grimm) fantasies, only the dream-land chills and thrills; the nightmare-truths of our world remain safely distant.

Fri, Sep 27 (11:15 pm); Sat, Oct 5 (2 pm)
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Metro Cinema at the Garneau
Originally released: 2006

1 Comment

  • OMG, this movie disappointed me more than any other in my life! It has so many plot holes, so many self-serving violence and it´s so incoherent that I can´t understand how it could be accepted by critics as one of the best movies ever. Even B-movies with no ambition have more logic in the screenplay than this.
    If it was written by a 10 years old, I would forgive the retarded plot holes but enough is enough.
    Ophelia is about 12 but mostly acts like 5 years old (especially that scene in the house of ugly monster at the table with a lot of food), other times she talks like adult poet when she says the fairytale about the rose to her baby brother. Sorry, but I don´t buy this!
    She hates to live in the cruel, dark, ugly real world, so she tries to get into equally cruel, dark, ugly fairytale world inhabited by creepy creatures. Oh, that makes soo much sense! 😀 And how broken is her bond with her mom, if she´s willing to abandon her?
    Mercedes has a perfect chance to kill the main villain but she just cuts him a Jokerface and runs through the camp full of soldiers and noone stops her! LOL!
    Ophelia brings her baby brother to the labyrinth as obvious sacrifice and then she refuses to spill even one drop of his blood, when the faun clearly says one drop is enough. LOL again!
    And what was so evil about that poor frog? It was just sitting inside of the tree which was hollow. How exactly could the frog harm the tree?
    The violence was over-the-top, mostly looked fake. The captain was maybe supposed to be like Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds but Landa was evil badass – intelligent, educated, charismatic man with endless patience and manipulative skills. Someone you just don´t want to be your enemy. The Captain in Pan´s Labyrinth was just sadistic jerk. Boring.
    There´s no development in the psychology of characters, who are one-dimensional as Hell. Again, I wouldn´t mind stupid, plain characters in obviously B-movie which doesn´t pretend to be anything special. But in this special-unique-wannabe movie it screams: “The director is a poser!”
    The funniest and most stupid fact? The director claimed the fantasy world was supposed to be real, not only in the girl´s mentally sick mind. LOL! I wonder who could get the movie like this.
    If the movie wasn´t supposed to have unclear ending, like Inception, it totally failed because the hipsters and posers and movie-critics-wannabes still talk about “brilliant unclear ending, you can understand it more than one way” and this wasn´t what the director meant! So the storytelling is extremely bad and incompetent.
    Some people (mostly hipsters and posers and movie-critics-wannabes) criticize Avatar for being just about nice visual and nothing more. But Avatar, with all its predictability, is much stronger movie with nice message about environmental problems and it touched my feelings. Also it´s visually much better and complex world than a few creatures + ruins of a labyrinth.
    Pan´t Labyrinth ends with cheap death of a little girl. It´s cheap because it is supposed to be shocking. Kids usually don´t die in movies. But her death was so forced – the evil soldier could be dead when he was Jokerfaced, she could be alive. It would make sense. It doesn´t make sense when it´s obvious that the evil soldier was left alive only to kill her in the end.
    And if someone, particularly the director, thinks that some forced gore and death of kid will shake me, then he could try to walk a mile in my shoes. When you watch your pets die one by one and you know you will watch some more die through your life because their life span is shorter than yours, when you have to clean the huge abscess on belly of your very old, very sick, very first guinea pig you spend half of your life with, when you have to make the decision to put them to sleep…no fake, silly gore will make you vomit. Ever.

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