Thursday, December 07, 2006

Film Review: Pan's Labyrinth


Elsewhere some people have been less than impressed with this, but we found it to be such a visual and intelligent feast of cinema that we fell for it completely. Of course it may help that we have a certain sympathy for the views of Mr Kermode (who I know isn't everyone's taste). But more importantly we had also been tipped off on how good it was by some friends whose opinions we value (N&S that means you!).

So for those who haven't yet indulged, what should you expect?

Well it is bleak: there isn't a lot of laughter in the film and there is plenty of the kind of gruesome violence that fairy tales and myths historically have indulged in. Don't forget the woman who danced herself to death in a pair of shoes that shredded her feet to a bloody pulp (something I always re-imagine when reading the Calliope story by Neil Gaiman).

It also needs to be said that the trailer is somewhat misleading: it is much more than a fantasy film as a large proportion of the narrative concerns the life of a young girl in 1944 under Fascist rule. It is violent, political, historical and (can I say it again?) violent. Disturbingly so. The violence is casual, brutal and utterly appropriate. But there is a violence to the fantasy sequences as well as they highlight that trait mentioned above about fairy tales. Monsters are scary. Really scary. And the ones here are amongst some of the most scary I have seen on screen in a while.

I'd also say take a hankie. It gets weepie (but not, I would say, in a sentimentally gushy way). You may also need to be aware that you may feel the urge to cheer at what happens to some characters, so unrelently evil is the way they are portrayed. But this should not suggest that this is a weak and simplistic representation, but rather it is extreme.

The acting was very good, and the special effects make you realise just how overblown and poor so many effects-driven films can be. This, in contrast, is convincing and beautiful to watch, and will probably remain so for far longer.


Martin said...

A Curmudgeon Writes:

Whilst I agree with Lisa about the beautifully made fantasy elements of the film (which I said before are far too short)if you take these sequences out the rest of the film would not stand up as a serious drama.All the other characters are one dimensional and the plot "twists" could not be more telegraphed if Marconi had been directing.

Can I list a few problems I had with the story, Lisa? Maybe you can put me right.

1)Where did the 3 stones suddenly appear from?

2)How much of a coincidence is it that all antibiotics come in ampules?

3)The "maquis" had explosives but could'nt get through a padlock without a key, a padlock they then left behind just to emphasise the fact that someone had given access.Doh!

4)I know warning in films are there to go unheeded but what was the girls motivation for eating the grapes? It's not as if she was being badly fed in the real world.

5)Why did she stretch up to leave the chalk on the desk in full view?

6) Why did the dope in the whiskey have an effect that came on in seconds but only lasted long enough for her to get out the door?

7) Who ties prisoners up for torture with their hands in front of their body?

8)Can all Spanish peasants outrun horses over 500 yards up wooded slopes.

I'll leave the Kermode stuff for another time.


Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Oh dear, I can feel some disputes coming on.

My biggest problem is that despite your points, the film convinced me enough with its delivery to not care about those issues. I guess it kind of depends on what you want and expect from things: rightly or wrongly I tend to go in with hopes of exnjoying something on its own terms. that doesn't mean I am never disappointed, but it maybe means I am not the best critical judge of cultural products...

Anonymous said...

Yes! I love, love, love you. and yes, I cried.

best film of 2006 so far.

Anonymous said...

I adored it. To get philosophical for a moment, I think there are two kinds of truth - factual truth, the problems with which Martin points out, and emotional truth. If a film has emotional truth, as this one does, I am willing to overlook some holes in factual truth. All the factual truth in the world will not win me over to an emotionally untrue story, though.