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Pan's Labyrinth

This was an amazing movie; it's going to haunt my dreams. I was warned about the violence, and it was rather violent, but I didn't find it gratuitous. Strangely, I think I found the scene where the creature with the eyes in its hands ate the fairies almost worse than the casual brutality of the fascist captain - don't know why. I wasn't expecting it to be as sad as it was. I was glad I went with Kelly - we sat side by side, dumbstruck, sniffing and wiping our eyes at the end and that was okay. It had the most intense, sustained, uniform artistic vision of anything I've seen for a long time; there was nothing out of step, no unecessary subplots or side business. It was beautiful, brilliant, dreamlike: to coin a phrase, awesome.

There were things about it that I need to think about. I found it interesting that in many ways the morality of the fantasy world seemed more ambiguous than that of the "real" world - at least as it was presented in the film's vision. In the "real" world the good were good and the bad were BAD. I can't say a lot about how things worked themselves out without massive spoilers, but this ambiguity seems even more interesting when considered in light of the way some people are interpreting the fantasy world as Ofelia's "escape" from the "real" world. If the fantasy world is a reflection of the internal life or wish-fulfillment of a child, you'd think it would be more black and white.

I think it's a testament to how well fantasy, when it's presented with the kind of respect for audience that this film is, can treat serious themes, in fact can get to the heart of serious themes in ways that perhaps other genres can not.

Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Jan. 27th, 2007 01:12 pm (UTC)
Is it even 'real' and 'fantasy'? I was talking with a friend about this and said I thought it was magical realism more than straight fantasy. He (and he's kind of an expert-y type on this stuff) argued that MR is fantasy, which is true ...

But anyway, I don't think any of the fantasy part was ambiguous at all, except for the faun and the fairies. Their interactions with Ofelia are not ambiguous to anyone unused to the corpus of lit on fairy/faery interaction, but to someone who reads a lot of fantasy and myth, all of the "knowledge" we have about fairies makes it ambiguous. OTOH, while we are naturally going to see the Captain (Colonel?) as BAD (how can we not? History is on the filmmaker's side), I think it's clear that he is a true believer. He's very complex, and I think there's as much of his being a little man faced with living up to his family's reputation of honourable service as anything else. I admit, it gets iffy in the scenes I won't spoil, but even then, I never got the feeling he enjoyed any part of his cruelty except that it made him feel he was superior and reinforced his beliefs that he was on the side of Right.

Can't say more, because, well, spoilers. And I thought some of the violence bordered on gratuitous.
a_d_medievalist
Jan. 27th, 2007 01:12 pm (UTC)
WTF?? that was me. For some reason, LJ has taken to logging me out.
intertext
Jan. 27th, 2007 04:35 pm (UTC)
Well, it was the faun and the fairies that I thought were ambiguous :) But they are the main motivators of that side of the plot. And it was precisely because I have read tons and tons of fantasy and myth that I find them ambiguous... One comment I read was that they demonstrated the need for the opposite of the unthinking obedience of the fascist regime represented by the Captain (and it is "Capitan"), but I don't find that entirely satisfactory - somewhat simplistic.

Interesting idea about Magic Realism. I don't think it is, really, although, of course MR _is_ a branch of "fantasy." And of course the Mexican/Spanish connection makes it tempting to see it. As I understand MR,it is where "fantastic" things occur in everyday life and are completely accepted by everyone in the "real" world, while they also in a literary sense usually have some symbolic weight as well, of course. In this case, there's a pretty clear "threshhold" that Ofelia crosses, which keeps most of her adventures in the realm of "faerie."
There's a psychological complexity, though - the whole "is it real, is it a dream, which one is which" that I find very interesting, and want to think about more. I think I need to see the movie again, in fact.

I thought the Captain enjoyed what he was doing. Like a bully enjoys doing what he does.
a_d_medievalist
Jan. 27th, 2007 07:28 pm (UTC)
But not everybody, even in MR, accepts the fantastic. Whereas in PL, good people like Mercedes do! I think the theory you mentioned about the faun and fairies is silly -- there's an entire group of resistance guerilleros and Ofelia to provide that in an entirely non-symbolic way.

But then, I didn't think there was any 'real or dream' question at all. To me, it was clearly real -- which may be why I saw it as being on the MR side.
intertext
Jan. 27th, 2007 11:57 pm (UTC)
Well kind of (people accept the fantastic)... Mercedes says she used to believe in fairies but doesn't any more now she's grown up. And really noone sees the fantastic creatures except Ofelia (and us, of course...). I came out thinking - of course, WE want to believe the fantasy part is "real" because it offers some hope; otherwise, it's all just too harsh.

And I think the non-conformity theory tied in in a slightly better way than I articulated to my thoughts about the ambiguity of the fairies and the faun (although I do think it's a bit too simplistic). Like the episode with the keyholes - Ofelia had been told to follow the lead of the fairies, right? Yet remember what happened? That's the ambiguity I was thinking about and where you could say that her NOT being unquestioningly obedient was a positive thing, even though the fairies were theoretically "good."
a_d_medievalist
Jan. 28th, 2007 03:41 am (UTC)
Well, without too many spoilers, Ofelia does get out of the room...and the mandrake really existed ... And when she really didn't listen to the fairies (as opposed to ignoring them when they were not sure), that's when things went bad. I don't know that I saw the fantasy part as offering hope, though. For me, it was entirely separate. She just happened to show up near the gate to faery because she was supposed to -- because we all know that's what happens.
intertext
Jan. 28th, 2007 04:38 am (UTC)
Well, the only part where it really offered real hope was at the very end and I can't expand on that without spoilers (drat) but you probably know what I mean...

And yeah, you're right about the mandrake. And she had to have used the chalk to have escaped from her room at the end, too. So the magic must have been real. Yes.

Yes. It was a very cool movie. And I need to see it again, I think :)
a_d_medievalist
Jan. 28th, 2007 06:33 am (UTC)
It was amazingly good. But I don't know if I can do the violence again ...
(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)
intertext
Jan. 27th, 2007 11:49 pm (UTC)
Never mind - they weren't really deathly spoilers. Glad you liked it - I thought it was brilliant (obviously).
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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