Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Movie Review: Pan's Labyrinth

Expectations have a way of affecting a person's perception of a movie. If the movie fails to meet your expectations, it can turn into a negative experience. Going into a movie like The Village, most people expected a horror movie, but the ending didn't fulfill their expectations. Ultimately, the marketing damaged the movie. Pan's Labyrinth flirted with the same mishap, but the quality of the material eclipsed the potentially misleading marketing.

Pan's Labyrinth is the story of Ofelia, a young girl caught up with her widowed mother in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Her pregnant mother Carmen who lost her husband in the war has married Captain Vidal, a ruthless military leader of the Franco regime. Together, Carmen and Ofelia travel to a mill in rural Spain to meet Vidal. Nearing the end of her pregnancy, Carmen becomes ill leaving Ofelia in a strange, violent place with only the housekeeper Mercedes as a friend. It is Mercedes who tells her about the nearby Labyrinth, a place in which Ofelia seeks refuge from her situation.

Based on trailers and stills from the movie, I originally thought Pan's Labyrinth dealt almost entirely in fantasy. Instead, Guillermo del Toro masterfully blended two very different movies into one and somehow captured my interest so thoroughly that all the potential disappointment melted away. The only connection he gives us between fantasy and reality is Ofelia, and Ivana Baquero plays the part so convincingly that you feel assured you're watching the next Haley Joel Osment or Dakota Fanning.

Ivana Baquero's performance as Ofelia is just the icing on the cake, though. Strong and convincing portrayals are found throughout with Sergi Lopez as Vidal and Meribel Verdu as Mercedes standing above all others. Doug Jones also knocks another one out of the park for del Toro in his creature work as Pan and the Pale Man. If you've seen the trailers, you've seen Jones work his magic.

For non-Spanish speaking viewers, be aware that this is a subtitled film. However, del Toro's storytelling is so well executed that you don't feel like you need to read them most of the time. In fact, the visual nature of del Toro's approach is what lifts this film above others, and it leaves you questioning your own interpretation of what you saw long after the credits roll. I highly recommend it if you want to see something unique and thought-provoking. Just keep in mind that it's extremely violent and not just about creatures and special effects.


At 7:00 PM, Anonymous Simone said...

Go on then Hap, watch The Lives of Others! Hihihihihi...


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