Monday, May 21, 2007
DVD Review: Pan's Labyrinth
Feeling too happy lately? Too rich, too pretty, too many fluffy kittens and chocolate bars falling softly from the sky? Then have I got a movie for you: Pan’s Labyrinth. Brilliant, gorgeous and guaranteed to depress and existentially confuse you in deep and pervasive ways, this movie is wonderful and haunting and should have been the Academy’s best picture winner for 2007.
Written, directed and produced by Guillermo del Toro, the story takes place in Spain, after the Fascists have taken control. A young girl, Ofelia, accompanies her pregnant mother to a military outpost where she will be living with her new stepfather, a cruel captain whose mission is to wipe out the last remaining rebels living in the nearby mountains. One afternoon, Ofelia wanders into a nearby stone maze and meets a faun – yes, one of those mythical dudes, sans pipes – who tells her she may be a princess whose family rules benevolently in a different and, one would hope, better reality. In order to prove herself, Ofelia must complete three tasks, each more frightening than the last yet still less traumatic than her life with the captain.
I’m usually a cranky movie watcher, ready to pounce on any weakness or flaw, but honestly, there is nothing that this film did not do well. The acting was uniformly excellent, especially the central performance of young Ivana Baquero as Ofelia. She exuded enough strength and bravery to serve as the perfect guide to lead us through this tale. The script was taut, the pacing fast, the characters heartbreaking and real. And visually, the cinematography, costumes and set design meshed to create a world that seemed new yet real and inevitable all at the same time.
Pan’s Labyrinth left me feeling as through I’d just run the most depressing marathon of all time – and finished last. Ultimately, though, it’s a small price to pay to experience such an exceptional film.