Sunday, September 6, 2009

Pan's Labyrinth

2006 Mexican film by Guillermo del Toro that tells the story of a little girl, Ofelia, who is moving to her new home in the mansion/compound of the monstrous Captain Vidal. Ofelia's mother was a worker at the Captain's factory when he fell for her and, after the death of Ofelia's father, they got together. From the first moment she walks onto the property, odd things start to happen and soon she realizes that there is a magical world all around the compound that seems to have been waiting on her for centuries. The magical beings, namely a faun, claim she is the princess of their kingdom and that their kingdom is in disrepair because she's been missing. Set in Franco's Spain, this movie has a side story going on, concerning the Captain and his mission to rid the area of rebels. Then there's the side story of the rebels themself. Then there's the side story of the cook at the compound who is aiding the rebels. And the one about the doctor who's doing the same. And the Captain's backstory and...well, you get the picture. This movie is visually stunning. Just totally amazing. The performances are pretty strong too and I love love love a good fantasy flick. The problem is the story is too scattered. There are too many characters getting too much focus. In the end, many juicy bits of story get neglected, while other superfluous bits get fleshed out. What results is a lack of much engaging or memorable story development. I left the movie feeling that it was neat, but not caring much at all about the characters or the story. No emotional resonance, in other words. I also feel like the fantasy aspect of the movie was too lean altogether. When she heads off into the magical world with it's mythic creatures and daring missions, I was loving the movie. I also thought it was the most effective aspect of del Toro's storytelling. In the fantasy bits, the viewer comes to understand more clearly that Ofelia is trying to escape the wretched Captain and his world, that she's trying to do what's right to restore her kingdom, namely her family, before it goes from mere disrepair to ruins. In other words, it's good stuff, but instead time is wasted on things like dinner parties and interrogations of rebels. Snooze. Interesting movie, with amazing visuals and a great lead performance by the very young Ivana Baquero, but in the end it was spread too thin to win me over.


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