Pan’s Labyrinth: Fauntastical

No that wasn’t a typo. In Pan’s Labyrinth, a creature known as a faun comes out from the veiny undergrowth of Guillermo Del Toro’s fairy-tale. He has eyes that unsettle and horns that make you wary of his nature. He is ridiculously conceived, looking like a cross-breed between a tree and a goat. Such is the ridiculous imagination that has manifested itself into a wide splendour of magical creatures that wouldn’t be found in your wildest imaginations. The story is equally grand. Set alongside the magical world is another that couldn’t be further from reality. The Spanish Civil War has just ended, but tensions arise when the aligned forces notice a group of rebels in a nearby area. At the heart of this madness, one girl is constantly being propelled from one world to the other. Forced to reconcile her place in a traumatic reality, without losing touch with her mythical endeavours, Pan’s Labyrinth is the very bridge between the meta and the physical.

With all the narrative prowess that Del Toro has, he’s indeed cooked up magic like none other. He has quite the thing going for flora and faun(a). Pun clearly intended. Because there ain’t nothing quite like this. Trees not only house the raging inferno between opposite factions, they provide the magical essence (if you will) for all magic and myth to bear fruit. With just a handful of creatures, namely, a faun, a few fairies, a baby root, a giant frog and a pale-as-chalk abomination, Del Toro proves that it is the quality of art that matters much more than how extensive it is. Each comes bearing their own symbolic significance. But they span the whole range. From being utterly unsettling to questionably murky, whether they’re an eloquent sage-like Merlin figure or a downright nightmare personified, I’ll leave it up to you to uncover and interpret these creatures that you may never have dreamed of.

But this is even more grim than any other fairy-tale you might have known. As if the mythical weren’t already unsettling enough, our protagonist Ofelia (poor little girl she is) can’t just come running back to Momma for comfort nor Papa for assurance. Mommy is currently in a state of extreme emotional stress – Too much caught up in her own problems than to deal with Ofelia’s “childish” tales of a faun she just met. Her dad is a ruthless and cold-blooded captain of a small army – He’s more unlikeable than the most unlikeable creature in the whole film. At times, the camp butler seems like the only one able to empathize with Ofelia’s troubles but even she is caught between the crossfire of war as she has to navigate the savagery of her own predicament. Del Toro tries to meld the two worlds together, weaving in different narratives to create an engaging story. Yet at times, I was, like Ofelia, caught between shifting worlds without a sense of reprieve. Everything was just so rapid, and whilst it hit us with emotions and intrigue, the film somehow lacked consolidation. It’s also due to how I felt the film enlightened us, but didn’t really enlighten the protagonist herself.

Pan’s Labyrinth is thus flawed in that way. Still, one would be bewildered at the depth at which the film taps into our fears and wonder, often mixing the two in surprising ways. Del Toro doesn’t shy away from blood. In fact he embraces it. The violence of the conflict is shockingly brutal as I’ve come to learn quickly. An early scene shows Captain just shrugging off his mistake in killing two innocents, father and son, by quipping to his soldier ‘Next time only tell me if its serious’. They were only hunting rabbits. Bloodshed constantly grounds us to what makes this film special. Even as we get lost in the animatronix and CGI, the violent turf of human machinations and cruelty pervade the screen. I’m impressed with how it was able to make Ofelia’s personal quest just as impactful as the colossal nature of bloodshed and conflict.

Shot with an uncompromising style, this weird tale makes me feel always slightly uncomfortable. I can’t quite put a finger on what it is but I’m starting to think it’s to do with my pre-conceived notions. The film has a knack for teasing out certain feelings in you, whilst holding back to maximise the fear of what’s to come; The fear of the unknown. For what it hasn’t done for Ofelia’s character growth, it certainly makes up for being a true supernatural fairy-tale – The kind that translates surges of fear and excitement and anticipation into something that viewers are able to feel in equal amounts. The end doesn’t convince me enough of Ofelia’s transformation or coming-of-age. It turns out that the faun is my favourite character in the movie. It is for his words of wisdom and seemingly contradictory unsettling appearance that makes him (at least for me) the ultimate metaphor of the film. The faun crystallizes the fabric of this fable into an age old adage; Lean not on your own understanding.

Rating: 8.5/10

 

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27 Comments Add yours

  1. Sam Morton says:

    Great review man! i have to admit when i read the title i let out a little nerdish squeal. You’ve just reviewed one of my favourite films of all time (the film that really got me into the art of filmaking), this film (and maybe Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind) is the reason why i’m such a film nerd 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jwforeva says:

      Thanks for that awesome comment man! How are you anyway!!? Haven’t talked in a while!
      Hahah! Film nerds ftw! Oh I’ve heard great things abt eternal sunshine as well, I needa watch that asap. You make films? I really want to, you know as a side-hobby thing, but so far my love for film centers mainly around being a nerd like you haha, watching and reviewing them 😉
      Never give up the passion! Glad to call you my fellow film nerd friend 🙂

      Like

      1. Sam Morton says:

        I’m really great thanks!!! I’m sort of putting my blog to the side til June as I have a load of exams coming up, but after that I’m planning on doing a load more regular posts. (Which may or may not include my own take on Pan’s Labyrinth haha). That film has a weird place in my heart as it was the first film where I noticed that there was somebody being the camera constructing it 🙂 I’m much more of a scriptwriter than a director I’m honest (although tbh I kinda make it up as I’m going). I’m working on really weird psychological horror script that I want to do over the summer 🙂 maybe if it’s any good I’ll share it with you

        Liked by 1 person

      2. jwforeva says:

        Oh ok I see! Goodluck for the exams, go smash’em! You should, I’ll be looking forward to your reviews 🙂
        Nice!! I totally get that! Gone Girl really got me interested in film and the whole aspect of creating art through movies.
        Hehe sure!! Can’t wait to see what you’ve come up with…psychological horror mmm 🙂 Is it like a full length kind of film, with like the whole cast and crew? I have plans to write up and make a film as well, but I just find it so hard to get all the parts together.

        Like

      3. Sam Morton says:

        Hahaha it’s no where near that organized. I primarily do scripts and plays (so if you need any help with that give me a call!) But I’ve been sitting on this script for some time so I figured i’d give it a go. It mainly focusses on one person (so cast and crew are limited) and I plan on doing most/all of it by myself or with friends but it should be fun. I’ve recently been messing arround with blending live action with stop motion (like Jan Svankmajer) but it’s probably going to be a complete mess haha 🙂 thank you so much for all your support and kind words – its really nice to suddenly feel part of the whole blogging comunity as a whole (us film nerds have to stick together haha) 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I absolutely loved this movie, and my roommate at the time abhorred it. She was expecting a Disneyish tale, and I was overjoyed it was more true to the blood and bone of the originals. The “pale abomination” you mentioned is one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever seen in a movie. It’s been years since I’ve viewed this film…might have to give it another watch.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sam Morton says:

      I call myself the “pale abomination” on a regular basis haha 🙂 that scene is absolutely terrifying – apparently Del Toro sat in a screening with Steven King and even he squirmed at the Pale Man

      Liked by 2 people

      1. When something terrifies even the Master of Horror himself you know you’ve hit eldritch gold.

        Like

    2. jwforeva says:

      Thanks!!! You loved it? You rock! Ah, well, I think one has to have some sort of open mind coming into this. I’m glad you were able to appreciate it, it truly is something special. Hehe, I think you might even love it more than I did! Did you catch the greek mythological references (I clearly didn’t haha)? Would love to hear your thoughts on this review/essay on the film 🙂 http://vigilantcitizen.com/moviesandtv/the-esoteric-interpretation-of-pans-labyrinth/

      Damn, it’s super terrifying.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ll have to read that! Is the website okay to go to though? My McAfee is sounding the alarms, but it could just be acting overprotective hehe. I love esoteric interpretations of narratives. I do that myself so enjoy reading how others see things.

        Like

      2. jwforeva says:

        Yeap! It should be safe to view, haha yeah sometimes my norton gets super protective as well.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Bookmarked! I’ll peruse it this weekend. Thanks for the link and the assurance 🙂

        Like

  3. bloggeray says:

    I have this movie marked for watching for more than 2 years but have never got down to actually do that. Thanks for the great review reigniting my interest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sam Morton says:

      It’s really worth watching if you get the chance dude 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      1. bloggeray says:

        I will. When, can’t say? But I will.

        Like

    2. jwforeva says:

      No prob man and thanks for the kind words!! 🙂 Glad I could get you in the mood to watch it. It’s honestly almost anti-fairy tale which ironically makes it an original fairy tale. Tell me what you think of it when you’ve seen it!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. emmakwall says:

    Your write-up was as beautiful as Pan’s Labyrinth itself Jia 🙂 you are a wonderful writer.

    I love, love, LOVE Pan’s Labyrinth! I think it’s one of those movies that everyone should watch at least once. To combine fairy tale with the horrors of the Spanish civil war, real life brutality with fantasy, it’s just fantastic. How could anyone not enjoy this movie?

    I loved your pun joke btw :p

    Like

  5. erinb9 says:

    Great review!

    I saw this movie years ago and found it incredibly disturbing, though. It’s well made, but insanely creepy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jwforeva says:

      Hey my friend :)) Thanks!! Yeah, it’s definitely not something you want kids to see 😦 I’m still not entirely sure what the movie is trying to say.

      Anyway how are you??! I’m sorry for not checking your posts out as of late, I just saw u had a few really cool posts up so I will check them when I wake in the morning I promise!!! Nights zzz (sleepy as hell haha)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. erinb9 says:

        Hey buddy! I don’t know either, just that I found it creepy as hell and mega disturbing. Maybe it’s because of all the eyeballs and little girl sacrifice, just sayin’.

        Hey, I’m sure you’re busy… you get into the blog community and it’s hard to keep up. I keep trying to stay current with everyone too, but it’s a lot of text flying by every day.

        My posts have taken a more serious political turn of late, but I’ll have to get back to whimsical silliness, haha, or I’m gonna start confusing everyone.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. jwforeva says:

      Thanks Erin! Sorry for the late reply 😦 It is super disturbing, I felt it constantly unsettling haha. Fairy-tale for adults?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Keith says:

    Adore the film. It also features one of the vilest antagonists in the history of film.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jwforeva says:

      Oh yeah! I would have loved if he said a few words though…maybe try and tempt Ofelia even more. How are you??

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Keith says:

        Doing well. A few days away with the family. Always enjoy that.

        Like

  7. The Vern says:

    This is a fantastic fairy tale and it’s a bit odd that this ones with such heart and great emotions was from the same guy who made Pacific Rim(Which I also enjoy) I like but am also saddened by Ofelia’s transformation at the end.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. jwforeva says:

      Hahaha! I haven’t seen Pacific Rim but I reckon its probably not as deep 😉 I thought Ofelia’s transformation was a little weird…how she passed the final test, the reasoning is a little dubious. But I loved it for the most part 🙂 Thanks for the comment Vernie!!

      Like

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