Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pan's Labyrinth, a review




So I watched Pan’s Labyrinth.

It’s difficult to sum this up in a single sentence; calling it a beautiful film just does not seem adequate. A couple of things really stood out for me, though – the theme of obedience in the film, and the visuals.

Capitán Vidal: You could have obeyed me!

Dr. Ferreiro: But captain, to obey, just like that, for the sake of obeying, without questioning... that's something only people like you can do, Captain.


One of the themes in the film is that of choice – summed up perfectly in the Book of Crossroads and the concept of a labyrinth, where the difference between a safe way through and an unending trap depends on which path you take. Every character has a choice, from the doctor to Mercedes to Ofelia to the tortured rebel (he chooses to try to count to three, and fails. Then he decides to escape Vidal’s game, in the only way left to him).

And what’s interesting is that the theme of choice is first introduced by Vidal, the finicky and sadistic antagonist. At his dinner party, he makes it clear that they all have choices, and that turns out to be very true. All the characters hold their own destinies in their decisions, as the Latin legend over the entrance of the maze says. And I love the fact that Ofelia triumphs because she doesn’t blindly obey authority, but trusts her own judgment instead.

The symbolism in the film is deep and layered, but what stands out the most is what the director, Guillermo del Toro, points out in his commentary on the DVD. He mentions the parallels between the real world and the fantasy world, and for me that’s expressed the best in the measurement of time. In the real world, Vidal constantly checks his pocket watch. In the fantasy, there’s an old-fashioned hourglass and the natural phases of the moon, but all three show that time is running out.

There’s so much else – the girl eating fruit in the underworld (an echo of Persephone and the pomegranate seeds), the two laden dinner tables (both with a monster at the head of the table), the cold colors of the real world contrasted with the bright fires of the rebels and the golden glow of Ofelia’s true home… the motifs are extremely well chosen and presented.

This film is beautiful and brutal and unforgettable. I loved watching it.

12 comments:

writtenwyrdd said...

I loved this movie, too.

gypsyscarlett said...

I'm glad you liked the film. I had a feeling you would.

What are your thoughts on the ending?

Marian said...

Well, I believe there really was such a fantasy world, but then again, I'm a complete romantic that way and like to think that Hobbes isn't by any means just a figment of Calvin's imagination.

Very Messianic ending for Ofelia. And her reunion with her parents brought tears to my eyes, though I'm afraid I did wonder how the poor girl would get all the way up there to her throne.

Vidal got just what he deserved. Not that his name would live on in infamy, but that his son wouldn't even know about him.

I noticed that all the fairies were alive at the end, but when I listened to del Toro's commentary, he mentions that to him, the faun and the Pale Man are the same person, because what matters isn't whether Ofelia passes the tests, it's how she deals with and reacts to them.

So those are my typically long-winded thoughts on the ending. :)

colbymarshall said...

I keep meaning to rent this one- would love to see it.

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Sarpedon said...

yeah, its hard to say just how shocking I found this film. Not because I was fooled into thinking it was a kids movie, I wasn't, but it still kept me guessing. I was wondering whether the stern captain would be won over by the girl's innocent whimsy right up to the bottle scene. The Sound of Music it is not.

sputnitsa said...

Interesting post! I guess I'm going to have to watch the movie now :)

Maria Zannini said...

I'm so glad you reviewed this movie. It's been on my fence list and I wasn't sure whether I'd like it or not.

Now I'm going to actively look for it. Thanks!

Marian said...

Hey Sarpedon,

The Sound of Music? Yeah, until you mentioned how you thought of it, I would never have considered that movie in the same train of thought as Pan's Labyrinth.

I think that's what I loved most about PL's plot - it didn't opt out or spare the good guys at all, and yet there was happiness in the ending.

Marian said...

Hey Maria,

Definitely worth watching. It's one of those films where everything just works together perfectly - characters, plot, style.

I was trying to write something critical to balance it out, but when I thought of the film, I started remembering the symbolism amd parallels instead - the circles, the knives, how Ofelia fitting the statue's eye into the correct place echoes the Pale Man fitting his eyes into their correct places. I am defeated as a critic. :)

Marian said...

Thanks for the award, Marge. I'll answer the questions tomorrow. :)

Marian said...

An unexpected but positive side-effect of Pan's Labyrinth...

I like music, but I'm even more picky about that than I am about films. While I was waiting for the library to let me know when I could pick up their copy of Pan's Labyrinth, I became so curious about the film that I watched all the clips and music videos people had on YouTube... which meant I listened to the accompanying songs as well.

That was how I became familiar with Nightwish's "End of all Hope", Alanis Morrisette's "Wunderkind" and Evanescence's "Bring me to Life". I enjoyed them, and they're all on my iPod now (along with three other songs from the very cool Nightwish).