Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Movie Review: Pans Labyrinth - Simply Excellent

Note: This is a Spanish movie with English subtitles Director: Guillermo Del Toro ( Director of Hell boy)
Winner of 3 Oscar awards. Genre: Fairy-tale, War

Mercedes, after stabbing the captain twice on the back and front, shoves the knife into his mouth. She shows less emotion than you would expect her to. She is a spy who would have been cruelly tortured by the captain. But he underestimates 'a woman' and the woman now has a knife in his mouth. The camera doesn't fade or move away from the mouth. You see the knife tearing the side of his mouth. In one swift action she rips his mouth off and the captain is left with a significantly larger mouth than he came into the world with. Even after he stitches his mouth (and you are shown the way he pierces his mouth with a needle and puts the stitch) the wound is neither healed nor forgotten quickly. That's only because when he drinks alcohol it falls out of his mouth from the inside. Pans labyrinth is probably the most gruesome, violent movie, I have seen in my life. It shows raw uninhibited violence. I promise you, you will not be able to watch this movie without looking away. When violence is shown, you would expect the camera to move away and show 'reactions' instead of the violence. But no. The camera just stays there. After some time you sort of sense that a gruesome scene is imminent. When the doctor gets ready to amputate a person, you have this creepy feeling "oh! no! they are gonna show that". After a while I involuntarily brought my hand up to cover my eyes because I just couldn't bear to see it. And I love violent movies. We probably have look away because the camera never looks away. Not even when the captain repeatedly hits a bottle across an innocent man's face and kills him. I still can't get the images of this movie out of my mind.

So given all this the creatures in the girl's fairy tale world look docile and the word 'beast' looks more apt in the other world. This movie is about an excellent juxtaposition of the defense of a military camp by a cold and ruthless captain and his step-daughter's fairy tale adventures. It is an exquisitely crafted, creative story backed by mesmerizing cinematography, imaginative sets and mind blowing editing. I have never seen scene/frame transitions done like this. The camera moves from its focus to a tree and when it comes from the other side of the tree a new scene/frame begins. Very cool. The movie instantly surrounds you with a kind of magic you would rarely experience in movies. The whole movie is like a painting, every frame is like a canvas and the images appear as if they were conceived by a thoughtful and a brilliant artist. The texture of the movie has so little contrast that you wouldn't be mistaken for assuming this to be a black and white movie. Although, it is said to be taken at the backdrop of the Spanish civil war, it has microscopic focus on a few lives. Its not about nations, politics and ideologies. Its about a few people and cruelty, from which an innocent mind chooses to escape. A military captain Vidal, his wife, Vidal's step daughter Ofelia, Mercedes the house maid, and a doctor are the few people.

Vidal's wife is heavily pregnant. Probably because Vidal ordered for a son and she is promptly following orders and manufacturing one for him. Ofelia, though she never directly witnesses the brutality of the captain is significantly frightened of him. A magical creature draws her into a labyrinth of a fawn named Pan. Pan tells her that she is destined to be a princess. But she has 3 tasks to accomplish. Her tasks involve magical chalk pieces that take her into a different world, where creatures (with eyes in their hands instead of their face) eat children for lunch, toads make an appearance too. Her task, where she has to open the secret door underneath her floor and retrieve a knife before the hour glass runs out, is chilling. But highly imaginative. I mean, a person has to be incredibly creative to develop such a fairy tale. Overall the parallel fairy tale aspect of the movie depicts innocence of the child in a way you couldn't possibly imagine. It all builds up for an excellent climax.

I left the movie feeling very sad. Some movies have a way of altering your mood. this was certainly one of them. The movie has two segments. One is a war segment and another is the fairy tale segment. The former has to make sense without the latter. And it does. Each segment viewed independently is mediocre. That they have been placed side-by-side is where the genius of the movie lies. People have this habit of escaping from the depression of real lives by escaping into a magical world. In this world they are princesses, princes, kings, rock stars and what not. It is the magical world that keeps people going during difficult times. Ofelia's magic world is innocence personified. It represents that magical world, which reality can never destroy even if, in an outward way, it is show to have done so. I highly recommend this movie to everybody. Never mind the fact that its a foreign movie with subtitles. Just go see it before it leaves the theaters.


anush said...

"Pans labyrinth is probably the most gruesome, violent movie, I have seen in my life. It shows raw uninhibited violence."

I would have thought so too, had I not seen the Korean movie "Old Boy". Seen that one? That'll beat anything else you would have ever seen, when it comes to disgusting gruesome merciless violence.

The hero eating a live squid is one of the scenes. I thought I had built sufficient tolerance for such things, but this movie was way out of control.

But I desperately wanted Pan's Labyrinth to win the best foreign movie oscar.

I said...

innaba, orre the movie review..

Nilu said...

Nice review ! Andha paiyan Sudhish madhireeyea neeyum nalla nalla review ezhudhara.

Hawkeye said...


i havent seen old boy. but will certainly check it out.


padam. cinema paithiyam.


nee vazhthariya thaazhthariya.