Ten Thousand Bytes of Cinematic Critique
I had heard many good things about Pan's Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno in its native tongue), and when I found out it was subtitled, that sealed the deal, because I'm a slight film snob. I walked out of the theater after watching this trying to piece together exactly how I felt. It was a well made and enjoyable film, although some of the make up and special effects didn't really dazzle me. When they were good, though, they worked to maximum effect, such as with the frightening creature Pale Man or the creepy mandrake root. The actors were all beyond competent. Ivana Baquero as Ofelia turned in a stunning job, allowing us to view the world through her eyes very smoothly and believably. To be honest, if I was her I would have shit a brick during all of this, even at my current age, let alone when I was 12. That just goes to the nature of the character's life, which is quite terrible. He father is dead and her mother is "sick with pregnancy," carrying the child of her new husband, the cruel Spanish facist Captain Vidal, played marvelously by Sergi López (who I would turn gay for just to run my fingers through his chest hair). That's why the appearance of a fairy, leading Ofelia to the demonish looking Faun (or Pan, if you translate the title stupidly...as they did), actually seemed to be an improvement over her current situation. The Faun (as well as the Pale Man) was played well by Doug Jones, who had no speaking roles because despite learning Spanish, he was eventually overdubbed with a more Faun-like voice actor. Doug Jones has been under heavy make up before, appearing with director Guillermo del Toro in Hellboy as Abe Sapien, and he'll be suiting up as the Silver Surfer this year (I wonder where they'll hide his genitals?). Del Toro's script is very dark, and the atmosphere he creates through his visuals is dreary and gray. This is what attracted me to the story as much as it kept me from embracing it 100%. It is such a depressing film, and even the slivers of hope given throughout the movie seem empty. The part of the ending that is supposed to be happy is hollow considering the circumstances of it. While Pan's Labyrinth offers so little joy, it is still not relentlessly pessimistic, which may be the best compliment one can lend to the story. If I had any real complaints about the script, it would be that it seems like there are two movies running, one about the rebellion in the woods and one about Ofelia's tasks, and they don't necessarily mesh too well, except at the end. I suppose that was deliberate, keeping people clueless as to whether Ofelia is really experiencing this, or if it is a child's imagination trying to shield her from her harsh world. Although I was uncertain how I felt about the film, I knew then as I know now that I would recommend it to anyone. If you have any kind of heart, seeing this will leave you a little depressed, but it is worth it to watch a finely crafted cinematic effort.
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