Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Cameron of Cameron’s Pit Of Terror. Thanks for being a part of this IMDB project, Cameron! Now let’s see what he has to say about Pan’s Labyrinth, IMDB rank 106 out of 250…
There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.
Pan’s Labyrinth is quite simply a fairytale for adults. Without being afraid to feature faeries and other mystical creatures, it provides a frank and often unpleasant insight into aspects of human nature; precisely what Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm and so on originally intended their stories to be before the rose-tinted lens of Hollywood made them fluffy children’s stories. Set in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, we follow young Ofelia through her traumatic experiences in both real and fantasy worlds. The episodes in these worlds alternate constantly throughout the film as the plot threads slowly become more intermingled with each other, images begin to repeat themselves between the worlds and common aims become more and more apparent, blurring the lines between fairytale and reality in Ofelia’s eyes (and our own) while the majority of the characters around her are set in dismissing her stories, much in the way they are stubbornly set in their beliefs in the wider world; a flaw that costs a number of them greatly.
Vidal is a male transposition of the fantasy trope, the evil stepmother, who is shown to be a less-than-pleasant character from the offset through very subtle nuances rather than blatant exposition. The feeling that he’s “a bit of an arse”, are soon compounded to sheer hatred by the quick and effective introductions of various deplorable sides to his character. More than just being the ‘evil stepfather’ by being nasty to Ofeila, he is a brutal, dictator-esque military general whose disgraceful acts and traits are mirrored in many of the creatures Ofelia encounters. Despite this, slight weaknesses are shown in him preventing him from being two-dimensional but not going as far as to make him at all sympathetic. Every character is portrayed as three-dimensional, “human”, with weaknesses and strengths rather than a cookie-cutter frame-filler. This applies from the leads whose traits are explored in some depth, down to characters that feature only for a minute; their nature is exposed through the smallest actions such as hesitating briefly before killing a fallen enemy; stopping to compose themselves before a horrific medical procedure; the list goes on.
Visually the film is at least as stunning as has become the accepted standard for a Guillermo Del Toro film, probably in fact setting the precedent for this expectation. Colour palettes, shapes and presence of natural life separate the real and fantasy worlds, but it would be possible to pause the film at any point, set in either realm, and be presented with a beautifully imagined and composed image. Everything is shot with a calm steadiness; the incredible, unique creatures aren’t given sensational coverage, making them seem more real and paradoxically more sensational, while the occasional brutal violence is framed like any other scene, and shown in single, mundane takes, enhancing the horror and emotional impact of the actions rather than giving them any sense of spectacle or, conversely, detachment.
This is a film that doesn’t so much attempt to balance the fantasy with the horror and despair of the real-world setting; the beautiful, mystical imagery with the brutal, unpleasant window into human nature. It blends them together into one continuous fable and one utterly believable universe. While being almost consistently dark and moody, it is an enthralling film that even after multiple viewings I find myself returning to for the noxious, bittersweet charm that is still unlike that of any other film I have seen.