Monday, January 29, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

***SPOILER ALERT. I will assign footnotes to any details that are spoilers and then include them in italics at the end. If you don't want to read the spoilers, don't read the footnotes. And when I say "spoilers", I mean spoilers. Seriously.***

This film earns and deserves its "R" rating. Cinematically, the film is engaging and while the music is appealing, it does not inspire a sense of awe (1). The story is a fairy tale for grown-ups and is wholly inappropriate for children.

If I had to use a few words to sum up this film, I would say it is violent, dark, and not a happy-fun time. Oppression, torture, murder. Fear, war, blood. A mixture of horror and fantasy. If you're looking for a pick-me-up, this film will not supply that. It'd probably be best to just rent Little Miss Sunshine or Talladega Nights, curl up with some beer, popcorn, and Raisinettes, and leave it at that.

One thing I didn't know about this film before seeing it was that it is delivered in Spanish. However, unlike other films that I've seen, the sub-titles did not detract from the tale and in fact enhanced it by adding to the surreal nature of the material.

I do not like to see violent images. I never have. In the past when I've seen horrible things on a movie screen, they have remained in my brain for a very long time. I prefer the images that remain in my brain to be of the aforementioned happy-fun time variety. Having said that, I understand that some violence must be used to tell certain stories. I have no problem going to a movie and diverting my eyes when something happens that I'd rather not see. I can hear gunshots, screaming, tearing of flesh, etc. and understand what is happening without ever actually seeing it. I appreciate film-makers who are willing to "go there" but I maintain that I would rather not see those things with my own eyes - not even in a fairy tale.

I left the film with the impression that some of the visual violence was gratuitous. However, having mulled it over, I now better understand why it was necessary. There is a scene where one character has to commit extreme acts of violence in order to remain alive. Throughout the movie, I had the impression that this character was calm and bereft of the ability to do things that were ugly. I think by showing those particular acts of violence I was able to see the human condition and what it means to do whatever is necessary for the good of other people involved and what it must be like to face death, kick its ass, and come out the other side, kicking and screaming all the way (2). It was brilliant story-telling to include this aspect of the tale (even if it did take sixteen hours for me to fully understand why it was necessary.)

There were two plot points that I had mostly figured out before the end of the movie. One of the situations turned out exactly as I expected (3). The other ended as I expected but got there in a different way (4). A different situation occurred about halfway through the film and I honestly had no idea how it was going to turn out and quite frankly, I think the events that brought it full-circle were mostly lame (5).

My only real complaint of the film had to do with the opening scene (6).

All in all I would say this is an excellent film. It tells a fantastic story and the girl who plays the lead role is a great actor. She's only twelve-years-old and I was really impressed with her ability to show a full range of emotions. If you're in the mood for some stomach-churning violence mixed with beautiful cinematography, this is the film for you. I imagine it will clean up at the Oscars. I have no idea if it's even been nominated, but at least the make-up and special effects should have been.


1. I enjoyed the lullaby and the way that Mercedes hummed it. I think it had a greater eeriness without any words.

2. I am referring to the scene where Mercedes is being held for interrogation by Vidal. I was really surprised by the fact that she was capable of committing such acts of violence. And oh yeah, GROSS. Even grosser? Vidal sewing himself up. I will admit to not seeing most of either of those scenes.

3. I am referring to the scene where Ofelia eats the grapes. Clearly she would eat the grapes and of course she would make it out of there alive. I wish the film-maker could've done that scene differently because it was so obvious that nothing bad would actually happen that I experienced none of that heart-pounding suspensefulness. Having said that, I can't think of a way it could've been done differently.

4. I knew fairly early on in the film that Ofelia would kidnap the baby. I figured Carmen would give birth and die, the baby would be a girl, Vidal would try to kill it, and Ofelia would kidnap her and take her to the labyrinth for protection by the faun. I was pleasantly surprised at the events that took place that actually got the baby to the labyrinth.

5. I am referring to the scene where the faun tells Ofelia she must remain mortal. I thought it was slightly ridiculous that he would come back later to give her a second chance. If the first part of that story had ended differently, (ie without him being so adamantly against Ofelia continuing her journey,) I might not have been so irritated when he came back. However, I understand that by forcing Ofelia to believe she had no chance at regaining her kingdom, she would be more inclined to do whatever he told her to do when he returned to lead her to the labyrinth.

6. The opening should have been different. When you see a girl lying on the ground with blood coming out of her nose, you know where the movie will end up. Once Vidal met Ofelia and the baby at the labyrinth, I knew he was going to kill Ofelia and her blood would drip into the labyrinth to open the portal. I call lame on the film-maker for starting the film so graphically. I think I would have been more surprised that Vidal could shoot a little girl if I had not already seen her lying there dead.


Maria said...

Each day, I let blogger skim around to three new blogs and yours was the one I hit today. Glad I did. Interesting one, I must say.

And about Pan's Labyrinth? Now I understand why a co-worker told me that she and her husband saw it last weekend and that she cried for for two hours afterwards. It must have really been wrenching. I asked her if she recommended it and she said no.

We went to The Queen this weekend, mostly because I will see Helen Mirren in anything. Anything. And this movie was excellent.

Nice reading your blog...

SerenitySprings said...

I also love Helen Mirren and I really enjoyed The Queen. I was shocked at how funny some of it was but I thought they overused the deer a bit at the end.

Dave-o-ramA said...

Here's a good post that points out a lot of things I didn't get first time around.