Del Toro finally gets it right
Please, let me be the first to tell you that director Guillermo del Toro has made some crappy films. Who can forget such insignificant attempts at filmmaking as: “Mimic” (1997), “Blade II” (2002), and “Hellboy” (2004)? To moviegoers in the U.S., these are the works the define Del Toro’s directorial career—and this is a tragedy.
Guillermo del Toro’s latest effort is nothing short of filmmaking brilliance. “Pan’s Labyrinth” is set in post-civil war era Spain (1944) and the fascist regime has taken control of the country.
There is constant uprising by those seeking socialism and democracy (which actually are not mutually exclusive contrary to popular U.S. opinion, but I digress) and a merciless general’s stepdaughter (Ofelia) is trapped in a country and world full of hopelessness, violence, heartache and her own suffocating confusion with the events in her country. She is befriended by a rebellious maid, some fairies, and one quite frightening mythological creature. The mythological creature, a faun, gives Ofelia tasks and she performs them. At the same time, people are bleeding, dying, and having a general unpleasant experience living. Not interested? See it anyway.
Movies from my childhood (i.e. “Labyrinth,” “The Dark Crystal”) drew me to this film. I was honestly surprised at how much I enjoyed it because I was expecting a fantasy movie and this is not a fantasy movie. This is a war movie with fantastic elements built-in as a vehicle for Ofelia to escape the horrors of her reality. But remember this: “Pan’s Labyrinth” is rated R for a reason. It’s bloody, violent, frightening, disturbing, and at times disgusting. Guillermo del Toro said he wanted to make a fairy tale for adults, and well, mission accomplished. It will make you cringe, so it is not for the weak of heart. However, you should also be moved, and hopefully you can leave the local Cineplex feeling slightly more inspired.
Going to my local Cineplex is normally such a painful and exhausting experience. The movies are generally crap and I’m rarely satisfied with the product and how much I spent to watch it. Watching “Pan’s Labyrinth” reminds me of why I continue to put myself through such torture—because sometimes a film is shown that makes all that wasted money and time somehow worthwhile.
What this movie is really “about” is finding beauty and hope in a terrible world, and in a terrible time. How can one find the will to search for life’s pleasant times when all seems so bleak? It’s a different time, a different country, and a different war; however, it can’t help but be strikingly relevant today.
On an endnote, you should check out Guillermo del Toro’s film “The Devil’s Backbone,” which is thematically similar to “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Guillermo del Toro has said this could be viewed as a thematic sequel to “The Devil’s Backbone.” Both are equally disturbing.