Saturday, January 20, 2007

film - Pan's Labyrinth


A fairytale for adults, not as visually arresting a Harry Potter film, but full of allegory as it tries to tell two seemingly unrelated stories. However, I found it to be more thought-provoking than entertaining.

The first story is about a young girl and her pregnant mother who travel to a military outpost in the 1944 Spanish Civil War, to be with her step-father, a grim, cold and violent Captain in the army. The rebels are in the hills and the arrogant Captain insists that his wife give birth at the military post, because he believes a child should be born wherever the father is. There's nothing but subtle hostility between the Captain and his step-daughter.

Enroute, the mother's car stops in the middle of a forest and the young girl encounters a stick-figured insect who she imagines is a fairy.

"Goat Awaits" - the next Slayer album cover

At the fortress, the girl follows the fairy into the nearby ancient labyrinth which has a winding stone staircase that goes deep underground. In this dusty, gothic setting, she encounters another magical creature, a talking goat-like creature (Pan) who hands the girl a book containing a series of tests to prove that she is still some magical princess and not a human. The Pan creature is frightening in appearance, looking not unlike the imagery satantic heavy metal bands use for their album covers.

The other frightening creature that you may have seen looks a bit like a naked, emancipated 6 ft tall alien with eyes that it places in the palms of its hands to see. It's a killer of children and isn't really explained. When he walks around with his fingers splayed around his face, it's as if he is saying, "Peek-a-boo. I see you."

"Peek-a-boo. I see you."

The war story and the fantasy story are not immediately inextricably linked to one other. If you think about it long enough, you can find ways, strong or weak, to justify in your mind the fantasy story informing the military story of good rebels, horse-back riding soldier bad guys and informants, and therein lies the films fault or genius, depending on what you took away from the it. Visually, the film doesn't tred too far into the over-the-top stylings of what we have seen from Tim Burton, thankfully.

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