Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

I first saw Del Toro's movie on a tiny screen on a flight to Sydney and watched it twice in a row, stunned by the overpowering atmosphere the film generated. I then rented the DVD on my return home and watched it a further 3 times. I am hard pressed to think of another movie that has made open woodlands seem so oppressive and closed in as this one did when the soldiers, mounted on their horses, chase down the "Communist" rebels in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Even the dark and gloomy interiors seemed less threatening. Ofelia, the young girl lead played by Ivana Baquero, is superb, constantly understated in her performance, and is totally believable as a child mourning her father and hating her step father. Her wandering into the Labyrinth and her acceptance of all that follows reflects her desperation to find something to cling to in the face of her mother's new relationship. Sergi Lopez, who plays the central villain Captain Vidal, is incredible, a Mexican comedic actor who gives the sort of performance only comedians can give in this sort of dark role. Vidal is a tragic figure, destroyed by his father and his father's reputation as a soldier he has become a twisted and totally evil character. At the same time you are able to understand why and so he doesn't become a charicature. The make up and creature designs are equally unusual. The Faun looks like a C Scott Morse design, with it's strangely wide head and curling horns, and the faeries look like stick insects with leaf wings.

The whole film is closer in style to old folk tales with their somewhat bloody stylings then the more bloodless versions that came from the likes of Charles Perrault on down to Disney. And all the more watchable for it.

Watch it, or better yet buy it and watch it over and over again.

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