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Sunday, March 18, 2007


Nephew and Roofus have been raving about "Pan's Labyrinth." It was hard to find for a while, but after snagging an Oscar, it re-opened wider. I caught it with a friend over the weekend.

But going in, I knew very little about the film. Nephew said it was a masterpiece; Roofus echoed that sentiment, but warned of its hard-to-watch violence; even The New Yorker failed to adaquately communicate the prominent "fairy" aspect of the movie (meaning: flying magical fairies, not the derogatory epithet favored by Archie Bunker) in a minireview I read. I just knew, from the minireview, that military oppression dominated the plot.

So when the little graphic at the cineplex resembled that of a Tim Burton movie, I joked, "What IS this, a Tim Burton movie?"

I can say this: If I had been watching "Pan's Labyrinth" on DVD, I never would have finished it. But I saw it through, and I'm very glad I did.

You see, I'm not big on modern fairy movies, and a little less than halfway through the movie, the fairy stuff seemed to be taking over the film. I was relieved each time the film returned to the reality part of the story, which concerned a sadistic Captain in World War II Spain (Sergi Lopez), an underground movement to overthrow him, and an imaginative little girl (Ivana Baquero) whose mother (Ariadna Gil) has married the Captain and is carrying his son.


As the fantasy and reality begin to crossover, it dawns on the viewer that it's all in the little girl's head. (This is made clear in a clever scene in which the girl sees a Mandrake root as a squirming baby, but adults see a dried root.)

So I thought one shot in the movie was badly played. When the Captain finds the little girl delivering her baby brother to a creepy fawn, the girl sees the fawn. But in a POV (point of view) shot, the Captain does not. Alas, director Guillermo del Toro underestimated his audience. It was like: "Attention, audience! It's all in her head! Get it?" It would have been better if they had blurred the Captain's POV shot; after all, he had just been drugged by the girl.

Otherwise, "Pan's Labyrinth" is a beautiful film. But I'm confused about the age group it is aimed at. Sometimes, it is a child's film (and there WERE a couple of little ones in the audience). At other times, the violence is nightmarish, even for adults.


Blogger wstroby said...

But if it was totally in her head, how did she get in and out of that locked room she used the magic chalk to create a door for? And what about the ending, when the walls of the labyrinth open for her, and then close so that the Captain can't find her?

10:25 PM, March 18, 2007  
Blogger Ian Voger said...

Yeah and where would she have gotten the madrake root (good Purple song) from?

8:11 PM, March 22, 2007  
Blogger Mark Voger said...

Are you guys telling me the fairy stuff really happened?

I thought the walls opening and closing was her hallucination. In real life, she knew the labyrinth intimately; the Captain didn't.

The minute I heard Pan mention "Mandrake root," I thought of the Deep Purple song, of course.

P.S.: Eyeball-in-the-hands dude ROCKED!

10:53 PM, March 22, 2007  
Blogger Ian Voger said...

Look all I'm saying is that Guilermo del Toro left it pretty ambiguous. There are arguments for both sides of the issue. I think it's really just what you want to take from the movie.

On one hand, you've got a real downer where a little girl gets murdered my a sadistic captain, and on the other hand you got a bunch of fairy stuff. I myself am still not sure on which to believe, I flip flop back and forth depending on my mood at the time of contemplation.


2:11 PM, March 23, 2007  
Blogger wstroby said...

Maybe the real question isn't "Can the Captain see the Faun?' but "Can the Faun see the Captain?"

Or are they both just moving through parallel worlds with parallel actions (the golden key/Mercedes' key, the magic dagger/Mercedes' knife, etc.) that intersect only for Ofelia?

3:49 PM, March 24, 2007  
Blogger Mark Voger said...


8:35 PM, March 26, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's many questions left unanswered in this film, which is one of the things i like about it. But did anybody notice at the beginning of the film, the faun has a dead left eye and bad teeth. Then as the film goes on he gets better. Then finally we see the captain get shot in the face and his left eye fills with blood. I'm wondering if there is a link between the captain and the faun. Maybe for the faun to exist, then so must the captain. Weird i know.

8:21 PM, April 15, 2007  
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