Saturday, January 13, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

Just back from seeing "Pan's Labyrinth" and I must say that I was very impressed. The story concerns a young girl, Ofelia, and her sickly but pregnant mother, Carmen. They have moved to a rural area in northern Spain to live with Carmen's new husband, Captain Vidal. Vidal is the cruel and vicious leader of a small platoon of soldiers who are tasked with the job of weeding out and destroying a band of guerrillas, know as "the maquis", living in the surrounding forest. The year is 1944, Francisco Franco is the victor in the Spanish Civil war and Fascist repression has reached it's peak. Captain Vidal's two biggest concerns are the guerrillas and the birth of his child which is he convinced will be a male. Carmen's biggest concern is pleasing Vidal and Ofelia would rather be lost in a good book of fairy tales. It is this infatuation with fairy tales which drives the corresponding plot of the film.

For me, Ivana Baquero (Ofelia) and Sergi Lopez (Vidal) were the standout performances, Ivana more so because she was only 11 years old at the time of filming. Doug Jones, the only American on the set, inhabits Pan and 'The Pale Man' with a type of completeness that only Doug seems to be able to do; referencing, mostly, Doug's portrayal of 'Abe Sapien' in "Hellboy".

The writer and director, Guillermo del Toro, worked diligently for several years with the hopes of being able to get this film made. I definitely consider myself a fan of del Toro's work and not just the material, but his style as well. Del Toro applies a very specific 'look' to his movies and it appeals to me. Some of his past works have included "Blade 2", arguably the best in the series, "Hellboy" and "Mimic". He is currently in the pre-production stage of "Hellboy 2".

While del Toro's past endeavors have resided, to a large extent, in the realm of fantasy, make no mistake, this is not a fantasy film or another "Hellboy". The issues are very hard and cold and any references to fairy tales are completely overshadowed by brutal reality.

As I was leaving the theater, walking down the stairs from the upper level, I was beside a guy and his female companion. They were 'discussing' the film and the guy said, "I can't believe they called it "Pan's Labyrinth" and you don't even see the labyrinth until the end of the movie," and looked at me as if he was seeking support. Since they had obviously seem the same film as me and yet, the word 'metaphor' had never come to mind, I abandoned that response and instead replied, "Well, in "The Wizard of Oz" you didn't see the 'wizard' until the end, either." That comment evoked the same facial expression as if I had asked for the square root of 7 and I'm sure they'll ponder it much longer than an odd word such as 'metaphor'.

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