June 20, 2008

Pan's Labrinth (2006)

Although I enjoyed Guillermo Del Toro's Hellboy, Blade 2 and to a lesser extent Mimic, I have always much preferred his Spanish language movies The Devil's Backbone and Cronos. They might not have been the visual extravaganzas such as Hellboy was, they were however beautiful, almost poetic pictures, all in all far more satisfying viewing experiences. So quite why it took me so long to get around to watching Pan's Labyrinth is beyond me; unfortunately it never screened at a theatre near me, and for one reason or another I never picked up the DVD. Obviously that has changed now, and all I can say is that I am kicking myself for not catching this amazing movie sooner.

Set to the backdrop of the days following the end of the Spanish Civil War, the story follows a young girl named Ofelia who travels with her pregnant, but sick, mother to live with the baby's father. The father also happens to be a Captain in Franco's army, and is hellbent on flushing out a group of rebels from the surrounding hillside. Here Ofelia discovers an ancient ruined Labyrinth, within which she meets the titular character who explains to her that she is indeed a princess, but in order to prove this she must complete three tasks.

The fantastical story of Ofelia slowly unfolds against the horrors of the aftermath of war, which shows her stepfather to be not only a tyrannical Captain, but also a maniacal one. He's determined to find the rebels, whilst also ensuring the safe birth of his future child.

Pan's Labyrinth is quite simply a great movie, one of stark contrasts between harsh reality and this wonderful but quite often disturbing other realm. At times beautiful to watch, yet at times you almost have to cover your eyes during some of the scenes, this is at times a very dark film. Despite the sometimes shocking tone though the whole movie flows seamlessly reaching an emotional level not often seen in films of this scale. By the time the closing credits rolled I was absolutely drained, I say that in a good way though as I had a huge smile across my face at the same time.

The cast were universally flawless, in particular though Ivana Baquero as Ofelia, who gives a tremendous performance, one that belies her age, and also Sergei Lopez who plays the Captain. His is truly a powerhouse performance of pure evil, his cold detachment from everything except his mission and future child is quite chilling to watch as he progressively get more and more violent. This isn't to take away anything from any of the other cast though as they were all superb.

The movie itself was visually stunning, switching from a very cold and wet looking war ravished Spain to the wonderful world of the labyrinth; say what you will about CGI effects, here they could not have been put to better use if they had tried. Along with the cinematography and terrific script the whole movie was finished off with a haunting score that, whilst it never intruded on the movie, it did at the same time add another level to the storytelling.

There probably aren't quite enough superlatives to describe Pan's Labyrinth, so if you haven't seen it yet I suggest you do. Don't be put off by the fact that it is a Spanish language movie as this probably wouldn't have worked as well had it been filmed in English.

Violent, beautiful, cold, uplifting and an absolute joy to watch, Pan's Labyrinth is quite possibly one of the greatest movies of modern cinema.

Rating 4 stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton


: said...

Another great review, buddy.

Isn't this one just WONDERFUL?

Guillermo Del Toro is quickly becoming not only one of my favorite directors, but one of my favorite people working in our beloved genre. Guy's a genius.


tarquin fortiscue hetherington (esquire, as it were) formerly of her majestys grenadier guards said...

I must be the only person in the world who thought that "Pans Labrinth" was a ludicrously over-rated pile of relative mediocrity, i just about got through one veiwing but i Know i`ll never want to endure it again.

Lord of Filth said...

Each to their own. It's not, but you are entitled to your opinion.