Monday, April 07, 2008

Pan's Labyrinth

While this film has been out for some time, and it had quite a bit of hype at the theaters, I continually encounter people who have heard of it but have not seen it. The most common reason they give is because the film is non-English with subtitles. I admit, sometimes "reading a film" is not as entertaining. Given the total number of U.S. films that are not dubbed, it seems English speaking film watchers have it easy.

With that said, I can only urge anyone who has yet to see this film to watch it. And if you've already seen it, watch it again. It is brilliantly filmed and scripted, with quality performances. Directed and written by Guillermo del Toro, at first glance the film appears to be a "children's film" - at least most of the promotion pushed it that way. Also, the early promotion and cover art focused upon the fantastic elements of the film. So it is a surprise to many viewers to learn that it takes place in 1944 Spain, and while "fantastic" in nature, it also confronts the horrors or war and reality.

The storyline follows a young girl, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and her widowed, pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil), through a post civil war setting, and the harshness of dealing with those in power. While on one of her walks through the surrounding forest, Ofelia encounters the faun-god named Pan (Doug Jones). And in this encounter, Pan tells her that she is special, she is a princess - certainly great news for Ofelia given her circumstances. From there a beautiful and terrifying serious of events occur.

The special effects are excellent, the musical score is elegant, the acting is superb, and the story itself is spellbinding. For the most part, it is focusea upon how young Ofelia (10-12 years old) deals with her life and loved ones in the midst of a hellish world. Perhaps she finds an escape to another realm, or simply an escape in her mind. Either way, the film is compelling and brutally honest - even if it is thought of as a "fairy tale."

This film is destined to be a future classic - and it is already a modern classic. So, if you've not viewed it, take the time. Maybe watch it a twice or more. Each viewing will be a new experience.


Charles Gramlich said...

I liked this film very much and found it both fascinating as an exericise in storytelling and for the special effects. It was just beautifully done and I found I didn't mind the subtitles at all.

Jeff Edwards said...

In this day and age, it is a shame to hear that films do not receive the attention they deserve simply because of subtitling. Further, it is terribly frustrating to see inferior remakes of foreign films being made just to cater to an English-speaking audience.


Steve Buchheit said...

Saw the DVD on sale and snatched it up. Still haven't had time to watch it yet (it's seriously strange to have a guilt pile of DVDs as well as books). And Thamus be damned, I'm gonna watch it.

Stu Shiffman said...

I just watched the film this past weekend for the first time. Quite blown away. Now I have to track down his earlier fantasy film set in the 1930s at an orphanage.

Jeff Edwards said...

Stu, the film you mentioned is called THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE. It was featured in The Film Vault commentary in Issue 7 of DARK WISDOM magazine, if you're interested in tracking down that issue to read the 3 commentaries.


William Jones said...

Steve - I hope you enjoy it. I'm curious to see if you feel it is a "fairy tale" or not.

Stu - It is quite a film! It captures the mood of hope and despair very well, and plays them off one another. I do have a copy of the Orphanage, but I've yet to watch it. I expect it to be good as well.

Jeff Edwards said...

Oh! THE ORPHANAGE, of course! Del Toro produced that, but it was directed by Juan Antonio Bayona. It might be fun to watch that back-to-back with THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE.