Into the Labyrinth

Wednesday July 25, 2007 in films | recent cinema

I had it all planned out…

This is my favourite time of the year for lounging, and due to a combination of having the house to myself for a while and being in the middle of a transition period (I am starting a new job in August), I’d decided to take it easy over a long stretch of summer evenings, reading in the garden as the sun set in front of me…

Well it hasn’t quite turned out that way, and it’s mostly been snatched moments in between rain, wind and cold. It’s cold now, and although not yet seven o’ clock I’m inside. No sunset worth seeing tonight.

But the nights drawing in a little quicker than expected has meant that I’ve finally got round to seeing Pan’s Labyrinth. This is a film that caught my eye sometime ago, and following several passionate recommendations from the film critic Mark Kermode (a man I have the greatest respect for, despite his extraordinary hairstyle) I decided to rent the DVD.

Pan’s Labyrinth, or El Laberinto Del Fauno, is a Spanish language film by the director Guillermo del Toro. I was expecting out and out fantasy from the trailers I’d seen and this is satisfied by a large part of the film. There’s some extraordinary imaginary creatures, both charming and terrifying. Perhaps the most well known image from the film is … well … this one:

Pan's Labyrinth

But this definitely isn’t for children; apart from the fantasy scenes being the stuff of disturbing nightmares there’s worse to come. The backdrop of the film is fascist Spain in 1944, and the fantasy world that a young girl called Ofelia buries herself in only hides her momentarily from brutal reality. Her mother is heavily pregnant and both are in the charge of a sadistic army captain called Vidal, brilliantly played by Sergi L√≥pez. Rebels haunt the nearby woods and Vidal makes it his duty to destroy them, resulting in some unforgettably powerful scenes in recent cinema.

Pan’s Labyrinth is an incredible film; Ofelia is scolded for the books she loves reading and the fantasy world she creates, but I left the film wanting to join her to forget the terrible darkness of the Second World War. It also made me question myself; did I find fairytale scares as chilling as real human brutality, was I enjoying cinematic violence (both real and imaginary) in equal measures – what’s real and what’s imaginary on the cinema screen?

Ultimately this film asked me, if you indulge in fairy tales and then meet a real life bogeyman, what do you do? The most frightening thing to face of all…

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