Thursday, August 16, 2007

Review: Pan's Labyrinth

Pan's Labyrinth, aka El Laberinto del Fauno on IMDB.

Synopsis: Pan's Labyrinth is two stories. One tells of a young girl, Ofelia, and her mother, newly married to a fascist Captain in Spain 1944. They arrive in the countryside where the mother is ready to give birth soon, and the Captain is mopping up the resistance hiding out in the hills. The Captain is brutal, the resistance is receiving some furtive assistance, and all is not well between the Captain and Ofelia and her mother.

The second story is of the fantasy realm Ofelia discovers in a stone maze behind the house in which she is staying. There she meets a faun who tells her that she is really a reborn immortal princess who needs to accomplish three tasks before the moon is full in order to reclaim her true parents and her immortality.

The movie is in Spanish with English subtitles (by the screenwriter, and not by some translating service, by the way).

Reaction: The movie is lovingly shot and well acted.

Unfortunately, both stories are essentially rehashed fairy tales with little in the the way of surprises, only shockingly immodest on-screen brutality and gore. Things that could have been powerful in subtlety are shot simply with full lighting: guts, bloody heads and faces, sliced open belled and mouths, etc...

The characters, with little exception, are one-dimensional and stereotypical. As cliché stories with one-dimensional characters who experience no growth go, the story is well-told.

Exceptionally good in his role is Sergi López as the brutal Captain. He manages to imbue a small amount of sympathy for his character, even as he tortures, kills, and destroys everyone around him. Indeed, his is the only character who experiences some slight growth within the story. Alas, not enough.

The fantasy story is the weaker of the two stories, as Ivana Baquero, though capable enough, doesn't manage to leave us with anything particularly memorable about her portrayal of Ofelia in her hellish situation. She plays nearly the same character as Stephanie Leonidas did as Helena in Mirrormask, but without exuding a sympathetic or captivating personality.

Incidentally, Mirrormask is a better movie. Naturally, Pan's Labyrinth is rated in the top 250 on IMDB, while Mirrormask languishes somewhere in the netherworld of well-regarded but not quite highly rated enough.

Ah, well. I'm looking forward to seeing Stardust (IMDB), anyway.

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