Saturday, January 27, 2007

Review of Pan's Labyrinth

So, it is very late but I need to get in an update this week, and I just returned from the only showing of Pan's Labyrinth in town.

This will contain some spoilers for the movie, and will perhaps be a bit disjointed as I have not figured exactly what I think of this film. It was an interesting experience on many levels, one being that I can speak rudimentary Italian, and so during certain points in the film I found that I did not need to read the subtitles or the translation for words, which was kind of cool. There was of course much that was different because the film is in Spanish, but many of their words are very similar.

I am very impressed, first of all. Everything in this film was well done-- the cinematography, the acting, the creatures, the music (god, the music!), and the script. But I cannot lie-- I left the movie upset, a tad annoyed, and disturbed. It is not the fairy tale that it seems to be from the trailer! It is depressing, it is violent, and it is graphic. Note the bolded word-- the "R" rating is serious. No matter how mature or into fairy tales they might be, it is no movie for a child. There were times when I had to cover my eyes, and I am an adult who has dealt with such movies as We Were Soldiers, Black Hawk Down, Sin City and Kill Bill.

And that, I believe, sums up all the issues with the film. It was not what it was represented to be, and it put Sin City to shame. Mainly because the violence in it was very real and not stylized as it was in Sin City. From a bloody and violent birth to the Captain bashing a man's face in with a glass bottle, it is gritty, realistic and cringe-worthy. I think that they actually went too far with much of this-- simple cuts and representations would have almost been better than showing the violence. It would have been just as powerful, but not enough to make your stomach roil. I didn't come to the movie to see a man shot in the face, I came for a fairy tale.

Pan's Labyrinth is a war movie, with fantasy elements as a little girl tries to escape the horror of the world she is living in. They made a mistake in representing it as a fairy tale, because I know many people (including myself) went to see a dark and twisted adult fairy tale. And those elements are there, but let me just say that every single shot in the trailer that is of the fantasy world, is a shortened version of everything there is. There is the Labyrinth, the Pale Man's Feast, opening the doors with the magic chalk, and the Labyrinth at the end, as well as a few places with the Faun and the fairies visiting Ofelia in her room. The rest is a gruesome tale of the Spanish Civil War, and the fascists trying to ruthlessly suppress the uprisings. If I had gone into the film expecting what it was, a realistic movie with a few shots of a magical world, I would have been more prepared.

And so I am disappointed in it, but not because it was poorly made, written or executed. I was very much impressed at how well done it was, and how it didn't fit into the cookie cutter blockbusters that are coming out our ears. But it is not what I wanted to see.

The acting is phenomenal, as are the creatures. I can honestly say the baby-eating Pale Man is one of the scariest and most disturbing things I have ever seen. It might not be saying much, because I don't frequent horror or slasher movies, but damn, one glimpse of that thing and I'd run screaming down the hallway. I hope I don't have nightmares about it tonight. The Pale Man was freakier than the Bunny from Donnie Darko, and that was one scary bunny.

I would recommend seeing Pan's Labyrinth, it's one of the best movies I have seen in a long time. Just be wary of the gore and be warned before hand that it is not what you are expecting, and I have to say shame on the advertising department for marketing it in such a way. I still haven't decided where it goes on my list, but it's definitely a movie to see if you can deal with death, darkness, and lots of disturbing creatures and blood.

I don't think it's fair for me to give it a quill rating. I'll leave it up to you.

"But captain, to obey for obey's sake... That's something only people like you do."

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