Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006) [7]

If I were have written a review right after viewing this film, it would have been gushing with praise. But as I've thought a little bit more in depth about it, the film, while still very good overall, has lost some of its luster. Reason number one is the genre: I've never been a big fan of fantasy and/or movies overloaded with special effects. Even with that being said, del Toro has created a world so convincing and emotionally relevant to the real world of the film that any apprehensions I would have had went away by the end. Pan's Labyrinth is a exceptionally constructed film in how it blends the real world of fascist Spain of 1944 and the fairy tale world Ofelia finds, and how they are one and the same. del Toro does draw a direct distinction between the horrors of the Franco regime and the monsters and fear Ofelia meets on her journey. The point I want to nitpick is that del Toro really hammers this home too blatantly. I'm not one to defend a corrupt fascist regime, but the sheer brutality and blind loyalty shown by Captain Vidal begins to border too much on cartoonish villainy by the end. It's too easy to have such a characterization of him as pure evil, even though I know that's del Toro's intent. This leads into the violence, while handled carefully by del Toro, begins to descend into overuse by the end also. For me, it's too much (I can handle graphic violence in cinema but here it's overkill).

What works to the film's benefit is its reliance on Ofelia. When del Toro keeps the focus on her and her tasks in the fantasy land, the film keeps grounded despite being in a fantastical realm. For fantasy to work for me, I have to believe there's characters with depth occupying those worlds. It's all too easy to forget about this when crafting the creatures and images in this world, but del Toro makes it work because the entire time we can still remember Ofelia is a young girl, often afraid of the world(s) she's in. That, and the fantastical visuals blend perfectly into the film. While no means the masterpiece some critics have been calling it, there's still a lot I like in Pan's Labyrinth for a film I could have found many reasons not to.

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