Thursday, September 09, 2010

Review: Pan's Labyrinth

Pan's Labyrinthis a very dark fairy tale. Most fantasy movies are for kids, and this one breaks the mold. My parents have taken me to more scary movies when I was a child, but I don't think most American parents will be willing to subject their kids to that kind of horror.

The story is set during the Spanish Civil War. The protagonist of the movie, Ofelia and her pregnant mother travel to join her stepfather who's job it is to wipe out or contain the rebels in the forest. During her travels, she sets off a chain of events that lead to a visit by a fairy and a troll who tells her that she is a fairy princess trapped in the human world and must do three tasks in order to return lands of the fairy.

The first task seems in keeping with the traditional fairy tale. At the same time, we are exposed to the clashes between the rebels and the soldiers, and the cruelty of the war between them. Ofelia's mother takes ill, and the troll gives her a solution to help make her mother better. Ofelia fails at her second task. However, she is given one last chance by the troll, and her world falls apart while attacks between both sides of the war are in progress.

Filled with allegory, horror, and unflinching realism (yes, there's lots of blood in this movie, and I jerked involuntarily during a few scenes), the ending is both unexpected and entirely in keeping with the movie. The actors/actresses are very well done, and the cinematography captivating: it is clear that Guillermo del Toro put a ton of work into imagining every aspect of the movie, from color to costumes.

I enjoyed the movie, but I waver between thinking of the ending as a cop-out, and considering it a smart twist on the audience's sensibilities. The psychological tricks the movies plays on you are also not what I consider fair. Having said all that, I don't regret the time I spent watching the film at all. I just wouldn't show it to anyone squeamish.
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