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Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

August 29th, 2007 by Maxim · No Comments · 5,075 Views

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5/5

Mexican director Guillermo Del Torro, who is familiar to American audience for directing Hellboy and Blade II, has written and directed “El laberinto del fauno”, which in 2007 has been nominated for Oscar in six categories and won in three: Best Achievement in Art Direction, Best Achievement in Cinematography and Best Achievement in Makeup.

*** The rest of the review may contain spoilers ***

The movie is set in Northern part of Franko’s Spain in 1944. In the opening sequence we see a girl, obviously shot, dying on the ground. Then we are transferred back in some time. Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) is a very young girl who is traveling with her pregnant mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) to her new step-father Capitán Vidal, who’s a Spanish army officer (Sergi López, whom an American viewer might remember for his role in “Dirty Pretty Things” with Audrey Tautou). The army is still fighting the Resistance in the North. Right from the start, Ofelia creates an imaginary world full of magic creatures that surround her everywhere. There, at the deep forest army outpost, she finds a labyrinth, and meets a Faun named Pan, who tells her that she is a long-lost princess and that she can come back to her real father, the King, if she can complete three extremely dangerous tasks: Ofelia has to retrieve the key from a giant toad, walk through doors that are drawn on the wall with a piece of chalk, kidnap a baby, and help her ailing mother through hardships of pregnancy by animating a mandrake root that looks amazingly like a baby. Ofelia also forms a friendship with a new nanny – a servant Mercedes (Maribel Verdú, who played beautiful woman dying from cancer in “Y Tu Mamá También”), who is secretly helping the partisans.

This movie is about a child who creates an imaginary world to escape the hardships of reality. Even though the child is small, his/her world is also small (like my Charles Dickens quote?), Ofelia’s world of child dreams is very elaborate. It’s amazing how the real world blends with the fairy tale in this movie. The more stressed the girl is, the scarier the monsters and the harder her tasks become, but also the reward – restoring herself as a princess – a hope that somehow everything will return to normal again, the monsters will be defeated and everyone will be happy. One of the story lines in this movie is the death of innocence and how does a child deal with horrors of the adult world. The innocence is giving hope, the violence is destroying everything. Even though Ofelia has never seen what her step-father does, I think she sensed something that made her try to save the baby from the tyrant father. Maybe when he hit her for covering up for Mercedes she was pushed away from him. Nobody had ever hit her in the face. She felt abused and felt urgency to do something, to run away. I must say, Ofelia is very intuitive child. She never sees any of the violence, yet she tells Mercedes, “I don’t want anything bad to happen to you”. She does not understand how to save her unborn brother and help her mother, but she believes, religiously, that some magic involving a human-like mandrake root may help and she was so protective and scared when Capitán found her bowl of milk with mandrake in it under her mother’s bad, was very upset with her and threw mandrake in the fire and how it ruinned the magic – literally. And the moment when she looks at herself in the mirror imagining what a great princess she would be is just heart-melting. Or when she sits in the bathtub – so innocent and fragile…

Capitán Vidal character is very complex and controversial. He is very sadistic - a real fascist who has no scruples about torturing, mutilating or killing people in the most violent and gruesome way. But it’s not that simple. There’s clearly a conflict inside of him. He’s a strong man, a Soldier who can follow the orders without questioning anything because that is the soldier’s duty. He has to be tough and even show off his “toughness” in front of subordinates: when he destroys the hunter’s face with a bottle he seemed to do it in such a manner that would most impress the onlookers, as if saying, “That’s how you deal with the enemy!”. He has to do anything that has to be done to win the war, be it killing or torturing the enemies, or being obsessed about precision and time and being meticulous about smallest details: who else noticed that lock on grenades storage was not forced but open with the key? Who else bothered to check the hunter’s bags? Adding to his spiritual troubles is a risk of loosing either his wife or his unborn child or both, which makes him even more violent and hostile toward subordinates and resistance fighters. When he shoot his daughter in the final scene, he basically executed her as a traitor: just like Taras Bulba killed his youngest son in Nikolai Gogol’s novel. One of the scenes that, in my opinion, proves his humanity, is when he is shaving in front of the mirror and contemplates cutting his throat. Another one is when he hands over his son to the partisans, but that scene paints him more as an ego-maniac – he wants to be remembered in a certain way; how can he not see that when people want to lynch you the last thing they want is to leave anything even remotely reminding them about your existence? Also, when he tells the doctor to do everything possible to save the baby if he can’t save both baby and mother – that’s very humane. But how does he explain that he prefers the baby over mother? His son can carry on his name! Is he an egomaniac? Is he a man at odds with himself, but also a wanna-be hero/strongman?

It’s quite interesting that Del Torro came back to the theme of Spain in the 40s, considering that the movie that made him famous and created quite a following was “El Espinazo Del Diablo” (”Devil’s Backbone”) - a classic ghost story set during Spanish civil war in 1939.

The music, the sets, the consumes, the effects, the acting, the directing – all is absolutely brilliant. The blend of fairytale and reality is unique. This movie deserves each and every Oscar.

Trivia:
They say Guillermo Del Torro has photographic memory.

p.s.

Jack Black is 38 today.

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Rated 5/5 on Aug 29 2007
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Tags: DVD · Fantasy · Foreign · Mexico · Movies · War

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