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Pan's Labyrinth

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I realize it's a little early for the thread, as noone here has seen the movie yet. But I'm hoping to catch it at Toronto this year. My favorite Guillermo Del Toro film so far has been The Devil's Backbone, which I thought was just a perfect blend of fantasy and historical setting, the earthiness of the setting lending the fantastical elements of the film all the more "oomph".

Pan's Labyrinth certainly looks to be more of the same. Here's the IMDb summary:

"Pan's Labyrinth" is the story of a young girl that travels with her mother and adoptive father to a rural area up North in Spain, 1944. After Franco

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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The British film critic Mark Kermode recently called this the film of the year.


We are part of the generation in which the image has triumphed over the word, when the visual is dominant over the verbal and where entertainment drowns out exposition. We may go so far as to claim that we live in an age of the image which is also the age of anti-word and potentially is the age of the lie. ~ Os Guiness

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)

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I caught Pan's Labyrinth yesterday, and suffice to say, it lives up to much of the hype. I don't know about film of the year, but it's quite good. But it's also going to be very difficult to market this one to theatres. The fairy tale aspect of the film is certainly there, but it's not nearly as prevalent as the film's trailers and promo materials so far might lead you to believe. And it's much darker, and much more violent, than you might imagine. Suffice to say, this is NOT a movie for kids. People get tortured and shot multiple times, get their faces sliced apart, there's some pretty graphic birth-related imagery, etc.

However, while certainly graphic, I didn't find it gratuitous at all. Seeing as how the film is set in fascist Spain and one of the main characters is a brutal Franco captain trying to quash the rebels, the violence is certainly believable, at least as much as with any war movie.

Even the fairy tale segments get pretty dark and spooky, especially when the maggot-y Thin Man is onscreen, biting the heads off of fairies and whatnot. As with the real world violence, I think this just serves to further impress that there is something truly at stake in the heroine's quests; there is evil out there that needs to be vanquished, not glorified and exalted, and I appreciated the film for that. Obviously, I won't spoil the ending, but there is a cost to facing down evil and it is a heavy one. I don't think I was the only one who got a little choked up.

Visually, it's absolutely stunning. There are some costumes and creature effects that rival anything WETA has done. And there's one scene that I think Jeffrey might appreciate, where the young heroine tells a bedtime story to her unborn brother, and the camera pans down into the womb to show the fetus responding to his sister's words.

Del Toro was at the screening, and he gave a brief introduction. He personally considers the film a sister film to The Devil's Backbone -- in fact, the idea for Pan's Labyrinth came just a few days after he screened The Devil's Backbone at TIFF in 2001. Like The Devil's Backbone, the fairy tale imagery in Pan's Labyrinth is directly related to the real world events. They're not merely escapist antics, but a bit more ambiguous than that. In fact, whether or not the film's events are real or just in the heroine's head is left ambiguous right up until the very end.

Speaking of Del Toro, he's an absolute card. Like Kevin Smith, he's incredibly crass and seems to be on shaky ground with his Catholic upbrining, but he's also incredibly affable, hilarious, and appreciative of the fans -- personally, I'd love to take him out for pints and just chew the fat. My mates and I were actually leaving the theatre and happened to cross paths with him. We shouted out his name, told him how much we loved with the film, and he just beamed at us.


"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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I just posted my review on Twitch.

And J. Robert Parks has also posted his review on his blog.

The movie isn

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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IGN has the official trailer premiere. Click here...

Overall, I think it's a little more accurate to the tone and content of the movie, especially concerning the violence in the film. That's the one thing that I think people won't be expecting when they go to see this one, instead thinking that it's merely a whimsical fairy tale film.


"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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Just saw it.

One word: SWEEEEEEEEEEEEEET.

Oh, and three more words: NOT FOR KIDS!!

As the credits rolled, I turned to Greg Wright and said, "And Tolkien said to Lewis, 'See what I mean?'"

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Jeffrey Overstreet wrote:

: As the credits rolled, I turned to Greg Wright and said, "And Tolkien said to Lewis, 'See what I mean?'"

Any chance you're saying that because del Toro was offered the chance to direct The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? :) (He says he turned it down because he "wasn't interested in the lion resurrecting".)


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Any chance you're saying that because del Toro was offered the chance to direct The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? :) (He says he turned it down because he "wasn't interested in the lion resurrecting".)

Heh... during his Q&A at Toronto, someone asked him about the Chronicles of Narnia. He replied that he liked the books well enough as a kid, but that he always thought that Aslan's resurrection basically "cheapened" his death. IIRC, his primary complaint was that Aslan's sacrifice didn't mean as much because he knew he was going to be resurrected. Oh, and he also thought that Mr. Tumnus was a pansy, at least compared to the fawn in Pan's Labyrinth.

I'm glad you liked it Jeffrey. I thought you would. :)


"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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Man, Mr. Tumnus was adorable and charming in the Narnia film... and one of its stronger points. But as fauns go, Pan reigns supreme. Man, he's one of the best big screen creatures since The Dark Crystal.

One thing I really love about him... he feels other. He's not a person with goat's feet. He's from faerie land, and that means not only fantastical but also CREEPY as hell.

Man, where do you start making comparisons with this film? It's Spirited Away, Alice in Wonderland, Lewis's Wardrobe, and (even though I haven't seen it) Tideland! And, like Flags of Our Fathers and Time of the Wolf, it's all about our need for myth in a time of crisis and uncertainty.

Sergei Lopez is, as always, unsettlingly good as a villain who's gone one step toward madness.

The fantasy sequences are done the old fashioned way, accented just enough with nice touches of CGI. And they're so much better for it. I sat there thinking, "This is the feeling that was missing from Wardrobe." Not that I think Wardrobe should have been so creepy, but the fantasy world felt REAL, and living, and unpredictable, and strange... a true wonderland. And Aslan's presence in Wardrobe doesn't even register on the scale compared to Pan. I mean, I didn't doubt Pan's presence for a moment, whereas watching Aslan I sat there thinking about how oddly unconvincing his animation was.

This is definitely Top Ten material for me.

I want to go back and watch The Devil's Backbone again now. This works just as well as that film, and serves as a nice follow-up, actually, with its themes of how children cope with crisis.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Your praise gives me high hopes, Jeffrey. This has been my most anticipated film for a couple of months now.


"It's a dangerous business going out your front door." -- J.R.R. Tolkien
"I want to believe in art-induced epiphanies." -- Josie
"I would never be dismissive of pop entertainment; it's much too serious a matter for that." -- NBooth

"If apologetics could prove God, I would lose all faith in Him." -- Josie

"What if--just what if--the very act of storytelling is itself redemptive? What if gathering up the scraps and fragments of a disordered life and binding them between the pages of a book in all of their fragmentary disorder is itself a gambit against that disorder?" -- NBooth

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Sight and Sound tells the rather amazing story of what it cost Del Toro to make this film, but let me tell you, his personal passion for this project is evident in every scene.


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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The Sight and Sound writer Mark Kermode interviewed Guillermo Del Toro on the Simon Mayo show today. To hear it, go here and select the Monday programme:

Guillermo del Toro

The interview begins at around 1 hour and 15 mins into the programme. It lasts about fifteen minutes and is available online for seven days.


We are part of the generation in which the image has triumphed over the word, when the visual is dominant over the verbal and where entertainment drowns out exposition. We may go so far as to claim that we live in an age of the image which is also the age of anti-word and potentially is the age of the lie. ~ Os Guiness

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)

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Quick question about history:

Is it true that the Catholic Church sided with the Nazis in supporting the oppressive Franco government in the Spanish Civil War? I don't know much about that chapter of Spain's history.

The church is portrayed as partnering with the fascist villains of Pan's Labyrinth, and thus the movie pretty much writes off religion as a source of comfort or truth. The only real help in trouble comes from the imagination here, and Ofelia is left consuting with mythological creatures.

Here's how the production notes describe that chapter of history. I don't want to just take the studo's word for it. Do any of you history buffs take issue with this description?

The war began when a group of right-wing military generals attempted

to topple the newly elected leftist government, which among other programs sought to

implement meaningful land reform for the country


P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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From Wikipedia:

The Nationalists on the contrary opposed these separatist movements. The Francoists (Nationalists) had a generally wealthier, more conservative base of support that was cobbled together from different Catholic, monarchist, rural landed and fascist interests, and they favoured the centralization of state power. Most Roman Catholic clergy supported the Nationalists.

--------------------------

Republican sympathizers, soldiers and volunteers, formally acting independently of the state massacred Catholic clergy and burned down churches, monasteries and convents and other symbols of the Spanish Catholic Church, Republicans (especially the anarchists and communists) viewed as an oppressive institution supportive of the old order. The Republicans also attacked nobility, former landowners, rich farmers and industrialists.

--------------------------

One of the Nationalists' principal claimed motives was to confront the anticlericalism of the Republican regime and to defend the Roman Catholic Church, which was censured for its support for the monarchy, which many on the Republican side blamed for the ills of the country. In the opening days of the war religious buildings were burnt without action on the part of the Republican authorities to prevent it. As part of the social revolution taking place, others were turned into Houses of the People.[7] Similarly, many of the massacres perpetrated by the Republican side targeted the Catholic Clergy.

Edited by Darrel Manson

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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So, do I understand correctly, then, that this film is presenting us with a rather simplistic picture of Catholics and Fascists versus Communists, heavily sympathetic toward the communists?

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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If anyone wants a primer on the Spanish Civil War, you could do a lot worse than listen to the "In Our Time" programme on the subject. It runs for about 42 minutes (the first minute is taken up with the tail end of a news bulletin, so stick with it). You need RealPlayer.

Simply go here and click "Listen again".

Lord Bragg does the Spanish Civil War

Edited by The Invisible Man

We are part of the generation in which the image has triumphed over the word, when the visual is dominant over the verbal and where entertainment drowns out exposition. We may go so far as to claim that we live in an age of the image which is also the age of anti-word and potentially is the age of the lie. ~ Os Guiness

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)

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Stylus gives Pan's Labyrinth an A+:

Guillermo Del Toro has been gearing up for a classic since the flawed but intriguing Cronos and the well-made but rather standard ghost story The Devil’s Backbone. And with the astute, haunting, and wonderful Pan’s Labyrinth, he’s made it. A fantasy in the vein of Alice in Wonderland or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, there are few modern comparisons. Miyazaki’s Spirited Away comes to mind, but Del Toro’s film doesn’t engage in whimsical diversions—it’s a more focused and potent tale of political and moral corruption, personal and social courage and, in the end, magic in the real world.

and

The design and prosthetics used in Pan’s Labyrinth are earthy and fresh, imbued with the same atavistic murk and muddy vigor of the characters from Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves. However, the grotesque creatures are not horrific, rather, they seem part of the natural world. Perhaps this is the key to the integrity of the film: it does not propose the existence of magic. It confirms it.

"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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Jeffrey Wells talks with Guillermo Del Toro about what he believes in...

FWIW, there might be spoiler-esque material in the article.


"I feel a nostalgia for an age yet to come..."
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Saw this last night and loved it. For me, it was a strong corrective to Children of Men in so many ways: the violence was never a thrill ride but always a moral issue; the film contains warm and inspiring human characters as well as neutral or dark and destructive ones; the film's warfare is rooted in actual human existence (in this case, the historical battle between Facists and the Reds) involving real issues; it's a multilayered and superbly constructed double narrative with a thematic depth that only grows the more you think about it afterward. And its performances and technical credentials are just as stellar as CoM. In short, if you want to see a thoughtful fantasy film by a hugely talented Mexican filmmaker this year, this is the one to see.

Suffice to say, this is NOT a movie for kids. People get tortured and shot multiple times, get their faces sliced apart, there's some pretty graphic birth-related imagery, etc.

However, while certainly graphic, I didn't find it gratuitous at all. Seeing as how the film is set in fascist Spain and one of the main characters is a brutal Franco captain trying to quash the rebels, the violence is certainly believable, at least as much as with any war movie.

Absolutely. If Saving Private Ryan is the model for CoM, Schindler's List could be the model for this one; both are historical dramas about power and oppression that focus on true-to-life life monsters. And yet I would contend that this film has a lot more to say about blindly following rules and orders, and forgetting one's humanity, than Spielberg's film ever musters.

The fantasy sequences are done the old fashioned way, accented just enough with nice touches of CGI. And they're so much better for it. I sat there thinking, "This is the feeling that was missing from Wardrobe." Not that I think Wardrobe should have been so creepy, but the fantasy world felt REAL, and living, and unpredictable, and strange... a true wonderland.

Absolutely. The aesthetic goes back to comments I've made in the Ordet thread and elsewhere about the value of physical and real-world aesthetics in imaginative or supernatural films. Like Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast, that only made the fantasy seem that much more real to me.

Jeff, how can you say that the film is a "rather simplistic picture of Catholics and Fascists versus Communists" or is "heavily sympathetic" toward the Communists? I don't follow...it shows the Facists co-opting Catholic ritual in one scene, just as they historically did. Religious rhetoric and oppression often sadly go together; Franco didn't invent it.

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Jeff, how can you say that the film is a "rather simplistic picture of Catholics and Fascists versus Communists" or is "heavily sympathetic" toward the Communists? I don't follow...it shows the Facists co-opting Catholic ritual in one scene, just as they historically did. Religious rhetoric and oppression often sadly go together; Franco didn't invent it.

Well, I'm on shaky ground commenting on that war, but from what little I've read, it sounds like the rebels were similarly barbaric and murderous in their resistence... burning churches, butchering clergy, etc. When I read about the film, and then see this movie, it seems as if the conflict has been rather simplified in a portrait that makes it look like good and evil were clearly distinguished, when in fact both sides had very dirty hands.

But again, I'm not a historian, so I'm happy to learn more.

By the way, Cuaron and Del Toro are good friends, and Curaon said Pan's Labyrinth is his favorite film of the year. I'm hoping to get a chance to ask Del Toro what he thinks of CoM. At this point, I appreciate things about both of them about equally. FWIW, Cuaron emphasized that his first priority with any film is making sure that his first priority is the development of authentic environments and communities, because he wants to show characters in proper proportion to their surroundings, whereas most movies are all about the Character and everything else is just backdrop.

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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For me, Pan's Labyrinth was a rather frustrating experience. It's not simply a matter of finding del Toro's idiosyncratic personal mythologies (which include a wearying, worrying fixation with sadistic violence) bogus, or his parallel narratives banal and unilluminating. It's that the film smacks vaguely of the same hubris that sunk this year's other auteurist fantasy, Lady in the Water. His remarks on directing the third Narnia film imply that he thinks the material is unworthy of him, when the truth is probably vice versa.

Now, I admire del Toro's previous work (especially the elaborate Devil's Backbone, with its thoroughly creepy uterine imagery). The fact that he has turned out several upscale Hollywood products (Mimic, Hellboy) without sacrificing his artistic integrity is admirable. But he's clearly out of his depth here, and the resurgent interest in fantasy has led many critics to ladle on the praise unduly.

And yet


"A great film is one that to some degree frees the viewer from this passive stupor and engages him or her in a creative process of viewing. The dynamic must be two-way. The great film not only comes at the viewer, it draws the viewer toward it." -Paul Schrader

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