Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

You Won’t Be The First Pig I’ve Gutted!

Time for another request from the long list of movies requested by Fabio.  This time he really showed his roots as a Mexican (or whatever the hell he is) by requesting a movie that was entirely in Spanish.  It was also a movie that was easy for me to get a hold of since I already owned the movie on BluRay, but it was curious because the case was still wrapped in cellophane.  I had no recollection of the fact that this movie was in Spanish before I started watching it.  If I had remembered that, I probably would’ve put it off until I could have gotten some Taco Bell.  It just seems right.  I know that I bought this movie on BluRay because I remember it being a visually glorious movie, but I’m not sure why I never opened it.  Did I not like the movie?  If so, why’d I buy it?  It’s not like I haven’t done that before, though.  Having no other memories of this movie, I was a little nervous going in because I had a feeling the explanation was that I didn’t care for the movie.  But I had to find out, and you can find out as well as I review El Laberinto del Fauno, more commonly known as Pan’s Labyrinth, written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, and starring Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Ariadna Gil, Doug Jones, Maribel Verdú, Álex Angulo, Manolo Solo, César Vea, Roger Casamajor, Frederico Luppi, and Pablo Adán.

In 1944, in a post-Civil War Spain, a young girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) is traveling with her pregnant mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) to an outpost run by her new stepfather Captain Vidal (Sergi López).  On the way to the outpost, Ofelia finds a large insect that she randomly decides is a fairy, either because she loves fairy tales or because she loves crystal meth.  When they arrive at the mill, the insect leads Ofelia to an ancient labyrinth in a nearby forest, but she’s stopped before she can enter by one of Vidal’s maids – who also is working as a spy for the rebels – named Mercedes (Maribel Verdú).  She returns later that night and finds a faun (Doug Jones) that tells her she’s the reincarnated Princess of the underworld, Moanna.  He gives her three tasks that she must accomplish by the next full moon to prove that she has not become too human since her reincarnation.  She tries to accomplish these tasks while Vidal is trying to root out the rebels while Mercedes and Doctor Ferreiro (Álex Angulo) is trying to help them, and Carmen is having difficulties with her pregnancy.

I’ve decided that the reason I had not opened this movie is not because I didn’t like it.  It’s because it’s fucking depressing.  But it is indeed a good movie.  It’s one of the most depressing fairy tales you can find.  The kind a mom that hates you would tell you in your childhood.  But really it’s your fault.  She had such a good figure before you tore out of that vagina.  The darkness of the fairy tale is shown alongside the darkness of a small scale war story, and maybe even a little bit of family drama mixed in there.  The war story is fairly typical, just being your usual army versus rebel situation with a just as common situation involving a spy.  The family drama is pretty typical too, mainly being about the new stepparent that the old kid doesn’t like.  But the addition of the fairy tale takes all commonness out of the equation.  That’s when Guillermo del Toro’s psychosis really displays itself.  It’s colorful and a visual delight to behold, but also pretty demented.  You’ve got stick bugs that turn into fairies and scrawny creatures with loose skin and eyeballs in his hands that bites their heads off.  I like the story of this movie just fine, but I’ve always said about Guillermo del Toro that you can say the story isn’t that good, but you can never say they lack imagination.  And they’re usually pretty brutal too.  Early on in the movie, there’s a scene where Captain Vidal bashes a dude’s face in with a bottle that reminded me a lot of a similar scene from Irreversible, where the bottle was exchanged with a fire extinguisher but being able to see the effect of every strike was the same.

All of the performances in the movie were great.  The actors all did a great job, but the most praise goes to Ivana Baquero as Ofelia.  That little girl tugged at my heartstrings on more than one occasion, but her character got on my nerves on occasion.  First of all, what about this giant stick bug makes you think “fairy”?  I work with people that are more like fairies than that.  BOOYAH!  That joke is just for my coworkers.  I also got irritated with her when she went into the area with the guy with eyes in his hands because they gave you one simple rule and you ignored it.  Were those two grapes so satisfying that you just had to have them, despite the warning you were given, the creepy monster sitting in the room, and the fairies trying so desperately to stop you?  When has there ever been a story when someone would completely ignore some divine, magical being’s one rule just to eat a piece of fruit, only to later find out you’re naked and you get kicked out of Eden?  I’ve confused myself.  I also really liked Maribel Verdú as the tough but scared, fierce but compassionate housekeeper Mercedes.  Sergi López was somewhat one-dimensional in his role, but most villains are.  It’s a tough sell to add layers and risk you feeling compassion for the person you’re supposed to hate, but I actually did feel a little twinge of sadness for him in the interaction between him and Mercedes about what she would tell his son at the end of the movie.  Ariadna Gil was also good as Ofelia’s mother, but most of her role just required her to be sickly and bed-ridden.

I found out today that the reason I had purchased Pan’s Labyrinth on BluRay but refused to open it was not because it was a visually appealing bad movie, but because it was a visually appealing vaguely depressing movie.  But it’s still a good one.  2/3 of the story is somewhat typical, but that last third is so full of imagination and creativity that you have to really think about it to figure that out.  The look is fantastic all the way through, and often gross and creepy, but it’s all amazing to behold.  And the performances, especially by Ivana Baquero, are all fantastic.  This is a good movie, worth a purchase for sure, even if you never open it because it’s too sad.  Pan’s Labyrinth gets “Your spirit shall forever remain among the humans” out of “Last night, a fairy visited me.”

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