Ok, since it's so late I'll try to keep this post a little shorter. I love today's movie - Pan's Labyrinth, directed by Guillermo del Toro in 2006. It's got a great blend of fantasy and reality, and is one of those really special movies that is about a child but not at all for children. I always find films like that to be really powerful, especially if they are the least bit good at capturing what it felt like to be a child. I don't think I've watched this movie since I first saw it, and it was so awesome to watch it again. I think I was able to focus more on the individual stories and less on the way that they were told, if that makes any sense. I just appreciated the film so much more.
The film is about Ofelia, a young girl who is sent with her mother Carmen to live with her stepfather, the sadistic and cruel Captain Vidal. He is in charge of the Spanish army, and is ruthless and cruel, killing easily and showing no remorse for his actions. Her mother is getting progressively more and more ill during her pregnancy, and Ofelia starts to escape to a fantasy land (...or is it real?) to survive. In the middle of the night, she meets a fairy who takes her to an old labyrinth, where an old faun lives. He tells her that she is really a princess (of the Underworld, no less), and that she must survive three gruesome tasks to prove herself - then, she can see her real father, the King.
On a literal level, the plot is a little hard to follow, or at least it was for me, the first time that I saw it. I remember spending a lot of time trying to keep track of two stories. The movie switches from following Captain Vidal and the ongoing war against the rebels to Ofelia's world. Once you know what's going on though, which was on a second viewing for me, it's easier to just let the plot fade into the background and focus on the character development. This time I was able to form some new opinions about the stories as well. When I first saw it, I couldn't really decide if the fantasy world was real or not, or if the film was sad or not - this time, I'm sure that I know, but I'm not going to share it with you and spoil the whole movie. :)
The film is stunning to look at. Anyone who knows del Toro knows that he is some sort of genius of real costumes, which he chooses to use over CGI. It's amazing her. The faun costume looks wonderful and will never age, because there will never be new technology to surpass it. It apparently took over five hours to get the actor into his costumes for the film, but I feel like it had to be worth it. The faun is part horrible, part fantastic, and I love that every little detail on his body is noticeable and real. I mean, that's the most important part - it feels pretty real! It's so much easier to see things from Ofelia's point of view when we actually are sharing in her sense of wonder and awe. The pale man (the guy with eyes in his hands) is extremely cool as well, with a real costume on but parts of the actor edited out in post to make him seem more tiny and gaunt. I know that creature always leaves an impression on viewers, and I think it's because it's something we've never seen before. It's so creative and new, and it's so rare to see something like that. He's genuinely creepy, too, which just helps us to settle in to Ofelia's shoes even more.
I always love movies that deal with childhood in an adult way. The movie isn't just about these two stories and worlds, but about how children cope with suffering and difficulty. Del Toro doesn't dumb down any of the parts with Ofelia, even though it's for adults. He doesn't infantilize her or ever mock her for her method or survival during these tough times. He has so much empathy for her, and wants to show his adult viewers that they have lost this ability, to be imaginative and creative, to cope with difficult times in this way. I like that he isn't afraid to put her in danger or harm's way, and some of the scenes are really tense and scary as we watch her try to complete her tasks. Will she make it back ok? I always feel like I can never be sure, because this is not a dopey kids movie - I know that del Toro isn't afraid to go into some dark places, even with a child as the main character. It's nice to see kids not treated as something special and delicate in a film. It's not something I see often, so this movie always really sicks out in my mind.
I want to write more about this, but I so need to get some sleep - lots of stuff to do tomorrow! If you've never seen this movie, you should check it out if you get a chance. I watched it with my parents who had never seen it, and they both really enjoyed it and seemed to find it really interesting and beautiful. It's such a unique film, and I love that it's full of so many things we don't often see, like real costumes and a respectful, adult approach to children and how they cope with life.
Have any thoughts on Pan's Labyrinth? Share them in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Pan's Labyrinth
Buy it on Amazon
I actually liked this movie so much that one Halloween recently I carved a pumpkin with the pale man on it:
|Not the best work of art, but it was fun!|