Pans Labyrinth – Visually Stunning But Unfocused

Pans Labyrinth – Visually Stunning But Unfocused

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  1. Art direction, cinematography, and makeup are three of the key things that make a film look amazing.  When a film wins the Oscar in all of these categories, it’s a pretty good guess that the film is gorgeous.  Guillermo del Toro’s 2006 film Pan’s Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno) did just that and, yes, it does look great.  It was also nominated for Best Original Score, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Foreign Language Film (it’s in Spanish).

    What is it about?

    There are two stories going on in this film, both involving a young girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero).

    The first involves Ofelia and her pregnant mother, Carmen (Ariadna Gil), moving in with Carmen’s new husband, Captan Vidal (Sergi Lopez).  He and his troops are in the midst of a battle with some guerrillas in the woods surrounding their compound.  Carmen and Ofelia move in because Vidal wants to be nearby when his son is born.  Vidal is an awful human being, though, involved in torture and other appalling acts.

    The second story (and main focus) is Ofelia’s interactions with a Faun (Doug Jones) in an old labyrinth that sends her on various quests in a strangely beautiful fantasy world.  She must complete certain tasks to discover the true nature of her origin and identity because she may not even be of this world…

    Is it any good?

    While Pan’s Labyrinth looks great and includes some breathtaking (and sometimes terrifying) imagery, it doesn’t feel like a very focused film.  The plot meanders somewhat aimlessly throughout its two hours.  It does, however, keep you engaged despite not focusing on its point.  This film shows that you can’t escape life’s dark realities through fairytale-like fantasies.  It shows this through its two stories, but those two stories don’t intersect as much as they should.  They only really come together at the end which is probably what makes the film seem so disjointed and unfocused.  The strength of this film is in the bleak but beautiful fantasy world that Ofelia is plunged into, but the film spends most of its time showing how brutal Captan Vidal is.  And the film only sort of finishes the story with Ofelia and the Faun with the ending of that story feeling tacked on and rushed.  

    The entire basis of Carmen’s marriage with Captan Vidal makes you dislike Carmen.  He is a despicable guy, but she’s with him because "he’s done so much for [them]."  Even though Carmen is sick through most of the film, Vidal is in the same room with her maybe twice.  If he actually loved her, he would want to be by her side and make sure she got better.  But he really only cares about having a son.  Carmen ends up being unlikable because she married this abomination of a man for selfish reasons.  So while she’s sick, you may find yourself not caring if she dies except that you don’t want Ofelia to be sad.  Since that porton of the film’s narrative is weak, it makes you want more of the fairytale… then you don’t get as much as you want.  It’s frustrating.

    While this film has gotten tons of critical acclaim for more than just its awe-inspiring visuals, I feel it is overrated in almost every other aspect.  It is very, very good from a visual standpoint, though.  Even though the imagery is borrowed (stolen sounds so negative) from Harry Potter, Alice in Wonderland, and The Chronicles of Narnia, it is still wonderful and even terrifying at times.

    Nolan’s Grade:  B-

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