about time we played hooky again

Stanley and I took a mental health afternoon off and went to see Pan’s Labryinth. We’re both huge fans of Guillermo del Toro since seeing The Devil’s Backbone (one of the best ghost stories I’ve ever seen), Hellboy, and Cronos.


Pan’s Labryinth is outstanding. I was kind of worried that all the raves the critics have been giving it were bullshit, kind of like the accolades heaped on crap like Dances with Wolves or The English Patient or [gag] The Sound of Music.

The movie is categorized as a fantasy, but that’s only what’s going on in one character’s head as she tries to escape the brutality of her life. It’s also about history and the heart of darkness and, I think, the reality of life for most of the children of the world.


Del Toro has a knack for getting the monsters right. The Paleman (the picture on the right) is the ultimate bogeyman. Ofelia, the little girl with the fantasies, looked at the murals in his chamber which show the Paleman devouring children. There is also a huge pile of shoes in the room, which made me think of Hitler and the Holocaust, which was underway and part of the backdrop of this movie. What got to me about this monster was I swear I dreamt of him myself, or a monster very close to the way he looks, as a child. Maybe our brains are wired to imagine monsters in a certain way.

Pan’s Labryinth is set in 1944 and, supposedly, a kind of continuation of The Devil’s Backbone, which was set in 1939. I think they show the impact of war on children, the despair children feel when their lives are completely out of their own control. There is a lot to think about. It’s interesting how much scarier a human, the Captain, is than even a bogeyman that eats children. And how deadening fascism is.

The little girl playing Ofelia, Ivana Baquero, is an amazing actress. She manages to play a tragic child without melodrama, without being twee. Sergi López is good as the Captain, showing evil and obsession without over-acting. And Maribel Verdú, as Mercedes, I thought played her part flawlessly. I liked the way the film looked, that slightly greenish tinge that you see in old color photographs. And the scenes beneath the ground were lit—I even wondered where the light was coming from and was grateful for it.

This is a line of dialog I thought was wonderful, when Ofelia asked the faun for his name: “Me? I’ve had so many names. Old names that only the wind and the trees can pronounce. I am the mountain, the forest and the earth. I am ... I am a faun.”

I think this movie is brilliant. It’s a hard movie—del Toro is not one to sugar-coat anything and this movie would’ve been weak if he had. It’s interesting to me that a lot of critics warn parents not to bring their kids to see this movie because it might scar them and, yes, it is scary. But then I think of the hundreds of thousands of kids who are living this daily; there are no lights that come up for them when the credits roll. That’s why it’s brilliant—it makes you think, and keep thinking, long after the lights come back on.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/19/07 at 06:32 PM
Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.

<< Back to main