Resolutions 2014: Pan’s Labyrinth

Pans-Labyrinth

Aaaand we’re back! Tell you what, Resolutions 2014 has been absolutely brilliant so far–and I’ve hardly had to lift a finger! All of you guest bloggers–you have been epic. Just do me a favor: take a moment to bask in your own epicness. Do you feel it? Oh, yeah. You’re that awesome, friends. And this guest blogger is no exception! The phenomenal Miss V from The Verbal Spew Review (an eclectic, hilarious, and all around amazing blog that you simply must follow) has decided to review a film I’m very fond of–one I’d even call a masterpiece. Here’s V’s take on Pan’s Labyrinth!

When I first read of Cara’s Resolution series I jumped at the chance to take part. This wasn’t just because Silver Screen Serenade is a fantastic blog, but also because I have a list as long as my arm of films I’ve been meaning to see for a long time now. This was the perfect opportunity to begin making inroads on that list, and just the kick up the behind I needed to do so.

I chose Pan’s Labyrinth not because I knew anything about it, but because it is widely heralded as being Del Toro’s finest and most thought-provoking work. Having finally bitten the bullet and watched it I cannot help but agree with that concensus. Thankfully though, I’d been forewarned by Cara that this film is definitely not light viewing. As sometimes my general mood can adversely affect my perspective, I was glad to be armed with this information from the outset.

pans-labyrinth-poster

I had two thoughts shortly after pressing play. The first was that this film had nothing to do with Peter Pan and the second was, oh noes, subtitles. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not usually one of those people that refuse to watch subtitled, foreign films, in fact, I usually quite enjoy them. However, I hadn’t been able to sleep and it was approaching 2am so I wasn’t sure that I could stay the course. I disregarded those misgivings almost as soon as they occurred though, because Pan’s Labyrinth drew me in and enthralled me to such an extent that I soon forgot to notice.

This is a Spanish film, set in Spain. I was struck by the lyrical rhythm of the words. Spanish is a language that sounds wonderful when whispered. The words were delivered like susurrated secrets, lending this story a further ethereal quality and complimented the highly visual aspects of it perfectly.

Pan’s Labyrinth takes place in 1944, during the post-Civil War era in a Spain under authoritarian dictator Franco’s rule. Young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and her mother, Carmen (Ariadna Gil) travel to stay with Carmen’s new husband and Ofelia’s new “father”, a sadistic Captain of the Spanish Army by the name of Vidal (Sergi López). Pregnant with Vidal’s son, Carmen is extremely ill and takes to bed immediately, leaving Ofelia fearful for her mother and for her own safety as war and Vidal’s rule continues around her. She soon retreats almost entirely into a fantasy world, wherein she encounters a faun who informs her of her royal heritage. She is a princess of old, and not human, but to return to her real father and become what she once was she must complete three tasks set for her.

pans-labyrinth-faun

With the backdrop of a Civil War and a resistance formed underneath Vidal’s own roof, one might think the frequent escapes into Ofelia’s fantasy world might be a reprieve of sorts for the viewer. This is not precisely the case, as often the violence in the real world is reflected starkly in these supposed imaginings of a scared little girl. Word to your moms, this is not a children’s film. The issues addressed are completely of an adult nature. This film is quite violent and it doesn’t turn away from showing us some disturbing scenes, though as the viewer, I wanted to turn away myself once or twice.

The performances from a cast that I did not recognize were quite breathtaking. Young Ivana Baquero as Ofelia was simply enchanting. Sergi López as the loathsome Captain Vidal was simultaneously distressing and daunting, yet also impressive. Maribel Verdú as the kindhearted Mercedes was possibly the most relatable of all the characters, and she did an excellent job in portraying an inimitable spirit. Doug Jones played the mysterious faun in an interesting manner; capable of changing from playful satyr to a more ominous figure that elicited much suspicion from me on a few occasions.

In all, Pan’s Labyrinth is a beautiful film. It was brutal, but therein lies the beauty. Debate continues over whether Ofelia’s fantasy world is real, or something she has concocted inside her head to escape a brutal dictator in a country that was at that time torn by fascism. Personally, I think that’s probably something every viewer must decide for themselves. For me, I found myself wanting to believe in this alternate world with all of my heart, but my mind could not stop picking out evidence to dispute it. Telltale signs to support both arguments, however, are rife throughout if you care to look.

pans-labyrinth-fairy

This interactive element, I’m convinced, is a huge reason why I was so surprised and thrilled by this film. In addition, it was filmed and crafted beautifully, the cast were captivating and the story engrossing. I’ve pretty much run out of adjectives here, so suffice it to say that I’m very glad I watched it, and if you haven’t yet, well, you definitely should.

IMDB Rating: 8.3

Do I agree?: It’s a 9 from me. I believe in Silver Screen Serenade ratings, that’s probably an A.

Many thanks, V, for adding another sparkling review to this series! I hope everyone is having a fabulous weekend so far! I’m still in good ol’ Texas, so as I said yesterday, forgive me if I’m slow to reply to comments or read any of your posts. I will return with a vengeance soon. Until then…Yeehaw, y’all!

…That’s how they say “goodbye” in Texas, right?

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52 thoughts on “Resolutions 2014: Pan’s Labyrinth

  1. I haven’t laughed so hard while viewing a movie since Schindler’s List!

    Kidding.

    Seriously though…have you seen “The Road” (Viggo Mortensen)? It’s another flick that you need to brace for impact prior to viewing.

  2. Hello there! V, I’d just like to say that this is a fantastic review on a film I’ve only seen recently and loved almost immediately! I don’t do ratings, but if I did, then mine would be exactly the same as yours, if not a smidgen higher. 🙂

    • Thanks mate! 😀 You know, I went back and forth a lot with the rating to be honest! It ticked so many boxes for me and it really was so well done that I thought maybe this deserves more than a 9. It probably does, but I don’t think I’ve ever given a movie I’ve reviewed more than a 9!

        • Ah yes, Hellboy, of course. Loved that one. Really enjoyed Blade II as well actually, I’d forgotten that was one of his. And Pacific Rim was THE action flick of last year. He really does have an interesting catalogue!

        • Yes he does. He has so many really great movies that it’s hard to just choose one. Talking about this is making me want to watch all those films again :].

  3. Nice work, V! This movie is AWESOME!!

    Cara – seeing as how Texas is our bitter bitter rival where I live, I think they sign off with “HEE HAW It’s time to go pick my own butthole!!”

    : )

  4. I’ve only seen this once, and found it to be brutal and scary yet enchanting and magical all at the same time. A stonewall classic, and one that I need to watch again. If I can stomach some of the violent scenes!!

    • Some of those scenes were definitely hard to watch Tom, for sure. I don’t think this is a movie I’d add to my rewatch pile any time soon, I don’t think it lends itself to that very well. Though I’d be interested in watching it with someone who has never seen it before, just so I can watch their reactions. 😉

  5. Excellent review V.

    I really enjoyed this when I saw it a few years back.

    I am NOT a fan of subtitled movies, because I tend to rely on my audiar (is that even a word???) senses the most when watching a movie, so with subtitles, I usually feel a bit lost.

    This is by far the best sci-fi subtitled movie I’ve ever seen!

    • Cheers Rob! I know exactly what you mean; so much of a performance is in the way the dialogue is delivered, and it’s hard to get a complete feel for it when you don’t speak the language used. Somehow though, it definitely worked with Pan’s Labyrinth, and I didn’t find myself distracted by the subtitles at all.

      • Exactly!! I sometimes like to watch English language movies with the Eng subtitles in order to make sure I don’t miss anything.

        Only saw this once, in 2007, so maybe it’s time to rewatch it.

      • I usually don’t know if there will be mumblers or not before I watch a movie, but that happens far too often, so I try to be cautious and make sure there are subs whenever possible.

        Glad to see I’m not the only crazy one here 🙂

    • Yes! The character was truly awful, truly sadistic, and not for one second did I doubt the portrayal. Loved the performance, detested the character. Cheers Keith!

  6. Pingback: The Friday Spew (31st January 2014) « The Verbal Spew Review

  7. V Thanks for this review. I noticed this movie on OnDemand the other day and thought about watching it. Now, I am enticed to do so.

    Lovely to find Silver Screen Serenade. I’ll have to visit here often.

  8. Great movie, great review. This one’s like the Schindler’s List of fairy tales and I remember when I first saw it the darkness and violence of it really threw me. But it is a masterpiece. The only thing I hate is the English title. Pan throws everyone off ‘cos you ask yourself “which one’s Pan? the faun I guess…” There is no Pan in this film! The literal translation of the title is The Faun’s Labyrinth, but the distributors just felt that wouldn’t play in english-speaking lands or something. Del Toro’s so good. That’s why I liked Pacific Rim more than a lot of people, ‘cos I’m biased to del Toro, I think…

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