August 19, 2007

Innocence Has A Power Evil Cannot Imagine

Posted in Fantasy, Foreign Language, Horror, Movies, Suspense at 8:15 pm by inflickted

Pan’s LabyrinthI shouldn’t even be reviewing this movie. It would be too easy. I should just give it a perfect score right here, right now and just save you guys the time and effort you’ll have to put in to read the review. But I loved this movie so much, to not give it a proper review would be a complete insult to the movie, the director and my overall love for Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno). The best film for 2006!

If you think about it, fairy tales have always been pretty brutal. Many of the original stories such as Red Riding Hood (the woodsman cutting open the wolf), Hansel and Gretel (cooking the witch), and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (jealousy and death by poison) were terrifying and gory tales. They were meant not to advise children of how to behave, but scare them into behaving as prescribed. The film is a dark and violent homage to those stories of old. However, this moral is reversed instead warning adults to avoid the pitfalls of greed, malice and vengeance. What is remarkable about the movie is how effortlessly it captures a feeling of youthful innocence without relinquishing one ounce of horror.

Pan’s Labyrinth is the creation of the exceptional director, Guillermo del Toro, who wrote and directed this wondrous piece of storytelling. You might know him having directed mainstream films like “Hell Boy”, “Blade II” and “Mimic” and also art-house fare films like “The Devil’s Backbone”. With Pan’s Labyrinth, del Toro opens a landscape where gothic fantasy elements are infused into the real-life horrors of the second World War. This film has definitely raised the bar for the director and other directors of this genre (like Tim Burton and Peter Jackson). The film is in Spanish with English subtitles – but, like the really great filmmakers, the director tells much of the story without dialogue.

Despite my lack of knowledge regarding the actors (I only knew Maribel Verdú from the film, “Y Tu Mama Tambien”), their acting was terrific and completely enthralling. The little girl playing Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), was beautiful and was perfect for the role. So was the main villain of the story, her step father Captain Vidal (Sergi López), was cold, ominous and sadistic. I would also like to make note of the brilliant acting of Doug Jones who played as the Faun and The Pale Man. He was also the actor behind characters such as Abe Sapien in “Hell Boy”, and as The Silver Surfer in “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer.” Set design and special effects, which go hand-in-hand, are impressive. The gloom of the labyrinth, with its crumbling stone structures, permeates the outside world. The film does not overwhelm the viewers with effects and uses it with subtlety and with an overall gothic feel.

The movie provides a window into the mind of a young girl who seeks escape from a life that features a cruel stepfather and a mother whose difficult pregnancy is killing her. What makes it the more fascinating is the absolute speculation on whether the realm Ofelia’s discovered is a portal into the world of magic or only the makings of her fairy tale fueled imagination. In this film, the innocence and wonder of a child is central. Ofelia’s vivid imagination leads to encounters with some truly bizarre, nightmare-inducing creatures, but it is the non-fantasy elements of the movie that create real revulsion. This concept is delivered for most of the film and when we discover the truth about what’s real and what’s not in the final moments, we understand that Ofelia was simply trying to escape the horrors around her.

“Pan’s Labyrinth” is a unique work, one with strong allusions to literature, painting, film, and music (the lullaby is enchanting). The theme of duality recurs throughout the movie and also works as an allegory, though it’s possible to enjoy it as a purely instinctive experience. Perhaps the film’s greatest asset is the way in which it interweaves Ofelia’s magical quests with the tale of the Spanish resistance fighters. Both are equally compelling. Del Toro builds almost unbearable suspense until at last, the two worlds converge for a stunning – and very frightening – climax (Note: I would have loved to know, if Ofelia didn’t eat the grapes, what her other tasks would have been).


There is real magic in this story, simple in its design, and exquisitely told. Pan’s Labyrinth conjures up a feeling of lost childhood, that with each life experience, one gets further and further from the naiveté that makes pure imagination possible, where fantasy existed to help make sense of a malevolent world. Myths and fairy tales are the stories that people most often associate with childhood. No matter how horrifying a story they enclose, their moral lessons and happy endings still come as comforts. These are authenticities that Reality (real life) can’t comprehend.

It gets a fairy talerrific 5 out of 5 or 100% infectious



  1. utakGAGO said,

    The word ‘conjure’ struck me. Dunno why. Also with naivete. Okay, I’m drowned.

    Haven’t read (if ever there’s a novel behind it) or watched the movie. Actually, this is my first time to read such a review about the said movie (which was last last last month?! lol).

    Mukhang enchanting ah.

    But then, it depends upon HBO whether to air it or not. Nakakatamad bumili ng pirated eh.

  2. paolomendoza said,

    i love this review to the bone! i agree about the acting.. when you’re watching something subtitled the visuals really should be great. the young kid’s acting is phenomenal. i wish you pinoy actors could be like her (i see most of them as over acting sometimes). i just got the dvd of this like 2 weeks ago… i’ve seen it thrice after that. there’s a bit nostalgia that you get from it. i dunno why?

  3. paolomendoza said,

    and oh.. you’re using wordpress! 🙂

  4. inflickted said,

    utakGAGO: Alam mo, buying a DVD won’t be a complete waste. It’s very good. Obvious ba, perfect rating ang binigay ko. Hehe! Feeling ko magugustuhan mo rin.

    Paolo: Yes, I AM using wordpress for my review blog. I wanted this blog to be perceived as cool… Hahaha! kidding! But not really! I agree with your comment, yun din ang isa kong pet peeve sa pinoy movies. Over acting kasi can ruin the believable factor of a movie. Nostalgia? Maybe it reminds you of Alice in Wonderland? or fairy tales?

  5. Imagicatress said,

    This is one fairy tale for adults.

    I’ve seen this film many times but I still can’t get enough.

    Everything is where it should be. You can’t seem to find anything wrong with it.

    I love the fact that Doug played not only the Faun but Mr. Pale Man as well, after seeing the end of the movie, it makes sense. Something will just ‘click’.

    I also love their concept of what is ‘human’. They tested Ofelia to make sure that she was still pure and innocent. To make sure that she is not ‘human’ yet so she could return to her real world.

    Also, the fact that the movie is in Spanish enhances its beauty.

  6. James said,

    This movie puts Alice in wonderland to shame.

  7. shinjishinji said,

    Yes! Pan’s Labyrinth is Love! Nice Review!

  8. andianka said,

    ahhhh! i was actually drawn to this movie’s poster because it reminds me of a novel i read “strangewood” and hoping it will become a movie as well. pero i was afraid to watch it in case it turns out to be one common horror film. kaso problem ko tuloy kung san ko na’to ngayon mapapanood. may book ba nito? talagang naintriga na tuloy ako lalo… and spanish? ahhh.. amazing.

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