Pan’s Labyrinth

I’m the one dragging my poor teenagers to see some foreign language
film, but this time it was the other way around, and I’m glad they did.
This movie breaks all language barriers and is, to me, a perfect
example of fantasy done completely right.

Pan’s Labyrinth
is set in chaotic, war torn 1944 Spain. It’s an unlikely, and
ultimately perfect, blend of fantasy and reality. Centering on the
plight of Ofelia, a young girl on the cusp of womanhood, this tale
weaves a dual reality with adventure and magic on both sides of the
coin. In this world, she’s the daughter of a tailor killed in the war,
and her mother has wed a cruel military Captain out of desperation and
misguided hope. Brought by this step-father to a new home in the country, they await the birth of his son, Ofelia’s half-brother. It’s here that
Ofelia finds the portal to another reality, one in which she is the
soul of the lost princess of the underworld, a place of magic and
legend which awaits her return.

Despite how it sounds, this is not a children’s movie, nor is it a
happy one. It depicts very realistic war violence and torture, none of
which is gratuitous — to this story it is unfortunately necessary. It’s
rated R and deserves it. I would strongly discourage anyone taking kids
under 14 to see it.

I would discourage squeamish adults from seeing it, as well.

The most amazing thing to me about this movie is that it actually
works. Guillermo del Toro, the film’s director, deserves every accolade
he receives for this film, because he did an amazing job. Flipping
between guerilla warfare and meetings with fantastic creatures, between
scenes of military torture and confrontations with horrid monsters, it
all makes sense. There’s not a stumble in the entire movie.

The complaint I’ve had about contemporary fantasy is that it is
stagnating in its own conventions. Here is an example of how it can run
fresh and wild, like something entirely new.

Bravo to the director and the screen writer. Bravo to the cast and crew. You did it right.


10 thoughts on “Pan’s Labyrinth

  1. Reading a recent Mercedes Lackey novel, I was wondering something that might relate. Though I have yet to see Pan’s Labyrinth (though I want to), I was recently thinking about how ‘toned down’ we’ve turned classical European faerie myth into something homonized and ‘Disney-ised’, when such tales were originally much grittier, more related to the hardships of the real world. I’ve also read similar essays at RFB&D.
    But then, I’m probably upsetting Disney shareholders, so I’ll stop.

  2. I will have to see this one. I write myths and would love to see them on the screen someday. I agree with trnunes Mythology is about challenging and teaches us how to relate to each other and the world around us; learning about nature, ourselves and the gods…as it engages the mind body and spirit of a person. Too many times our great myths have been reduced to “entertainment” only.
    Thank you for the tip…I look forward to experiencing it.
    Ashes .

  3. I really want to see this movie. I was at the official website for it and it looks so amazing. This is the sort of stuff I like to write, so when I see a magic realism movie advertized, I’m champing at the bit to go see it.

  4. Yeah, I want to see this one pretty badly.  For all you true “Mythologists” out there, I would invite you to see any Mary Zimmerman play.  Those in Chicago get to see the premiers with the Lookinglass Theater and Goodman Theater.  Best known for the play Metamorphosis in which she got a Tony Award, she has a catalogue of plays that for the large part are well worth your time.

  5. I never would have HEARD of this movie if not for this post. Thanks! RYC: It’s so sad that I’m obsessed with R&RHS instead of truly great works of art, but there you go.

  6. I WENT TO SEE THAT!!! I saw it the day I got sick. I took my 13 1/2 yo on Wednesday night and began bark-coughing that night. It was awesome! Disturbing, touching and sad.
    Thank you for the get well wishes and concern-no hospital. I just had sooo much catching up to do after being bed-bound for days that I couldn’t get on.

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