Thursday, November 23, 2006

Pan’s Labyrinth - Financial Times

David Seaton's New Links
I just want to bring to your attention this wonderful film, "Pan Labyrinth". It is by far the best 'fantasy' film I have ever seen. It is also a neo-realist film, a historical-costume- political thriller. A surrealistic masterpiece and about a dozen more things. Even if you have to get in your car and drive through the snow to find the nearest movie theater where it's playing, don't miss it. Really, it is price/quality; for the price of one ticket it will haunt your dreams for weeks. If you don't believe me, read this critique by Nigel Andrews, the Financial Times film maven. DS
Pan’s Labyrinth, written and directed by Mexico’s Guillermo del Toro, is bewitchingly bonkers. Coming from anywhere but Spanish America it would be hospitalised with advanced whimsy. Critic-doctors would shake their heads at the Lewis Carroll-style plot set in 1940s post-Civil War Spain, in which a fascist officer’s stepdaughter (Ivana Baquero) meets a faun in a stone maze who sets her fantastical tests and tasks. The film’s blend of historical realism and dippy make-believe would be diagnosed as fatal. The patient would be taken off life support and the body burnt to prevent infection. But magical realism is the province of mad Latins. Del Toro made Cronos and The Devil’s Backbone, films that subjected reality to gothic aerobics and midnight mythopoeia. Pan’s Labyrinth is deadly earnest in its portrait of a time: the aftermath of war, when Franco’s soldiers pushed north to purge the last resistance. Captain Vidal (Sergi López) is a handsome sadist whose new wife, pregnant but ailing, and stepdaughter must get in step with the counter-rebellion. But little Ofelia, a virtual orphan riding into the storm, starts to live in her redeeming imagination and so do we. Here is the ruined labyrinth, here the garrulous faun. Go further to encounter the monster toad, the mazy challenges and the Pale Man, an albino humanoid with eyes set into his hands who presides over a banquet from which no one may eat. Del Toro, a lapsed Catholic, has hinted that this forbidden repast symbolises the Church. It does and doesn’t. The labyrinth does and doesn’t stand for the Spanish Civil War. And the girl does and doesn’t embody the dawn of a new Spain. As in dreams, the obvious interpretation is just the iceberg’s tip. A vast hull of mystery and poetry remains unsounded, unfathomed. What about the girl’s supernatural stick-insect guide, a dadaist Tinkerbell? Or the chalk outlines she draws in walls to create real passages and doorways? It could have been feyness, pure and simple-minded. But few other moviemakers have the talent to suggest there are many mansions in make-believe, or the nerve to twin the pantomimic with the implacable. There is a torture scene you want to watch only through your fingers. (Is that the meaning of those eye-implanted hands? “See no evil”, while allowing it to happen?) And there is a DIY lip-stitching, performed on himself by the injured Captain, that will put the heebie-jeebies into the squeamish. Yet that scene is another hint at the denial theme – “speak no evil” – in a magisterial movie that sees truth as the greatest challenge of all, the final mystery and mandate at the heart of the human maze. LINK

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