Saturday, June 02, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth: Grade B


Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú. Director Guillermo del Toro. (Spanish, subtitled).

Chthonic is the word that comes to mind to describe this film. Along with dark, muddy, creepy, bloody, disturbing, and in the end, tragic. A preteen girl (Baquero) is brought with her pregnant mother to a military compound in Spain, in the mid 1930’s during the Spanish civil war (nice cars). The Captain, the woman's husband, but not father to the girl, is a Nationalist, hunting anti-fascist rebels in the woods around his compound. The girl lives in fantasy, which is the main theme of the movie. She enters into the underworld guided by insect-like fairies, and is instructed to undertake dangerous trials involving scary monsters, an allusion to Dante’s Inferno. The underground world, and much of the movie, is rendered in a dark blue tone that obscures detail and which I found very unpleasant to look at. However the animation effects, especially the fairies, are highly imaginative, and elevate the movie above mediocrity. There is no story, really. There are a few mini-melodramas, but no overall narrative. It is a hodge-podge of imagery from Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Brothers Grimm, and Mayan mythology. Good imagery it is, but even a fairy tale is supposed to be a tale, and there isn’t anything coherent here. The child’s point of view is not consistently held so it is not just a charming fantasy either. The above-ground theme of the civil war involves torture, blood and violence, making it not really a children’s movie, so you have to wonder who the target audience is. If there is an analogy between the underworld adventures and the politics of 1930’s Spain, I didn’t get it.

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