Monday, July 09, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

By 'popular' request comes the Hodmandod definitive review of Pan's Labyrinth...

Here is a scene from somewhere in the middle.

A child draws a chalk outline on a wall and where she draws appears a door. She steps through and she is in a world where a man sits at a table heavy with food. The man is motionless, long-nailed and his face blank and without eyes - these rest on the plate in front of him like two large berries. Pictures on the wall indicate his unsavoury past-time: killing children - a point reinforced by the pile of children's shoes the child has had to pass when she enters the room.

What happens next is satisfyingly surreal (which of course I cannot tell you for fear of spoiling).

In some ways the laws and prohibitions of this world are familiar from the tales we all grow up hearing: the loaded table of delicious food that must not be eaten; the egg-timer that indicates when the door into this world slams shut; the monsters that wake; the small child that is in danger; even the underground setting is something I have seen before in fairy stories. It is Angela Carteresque and deliciously enticing and disturbing.

But there is another world outside the door too. This is Spain occupied by the fascists and yet it is conspicuously Germanic. Now the pile of shoes beside the giant makes new resonances. Whose shoes? What is the eyeless giant? The soldiers are barbaric, vicious and violent, but also unbearably tragic. In Spain, the film reminded me, the fascists were victorious and until fairly recently this country was ruled by a dictator.

This is what I think the film might be about: the forgotten tragedy of Spain and the heroism of some of its people.

The plot contained all the annoying illogicalities of a fairy tale but were entirely right and necessary because of that. I can't say I enjoyed this film - it was too thought-provoking and tense for that - but it held my attention (rather too well - I was not ready for the violence which comes without warning) and I think it was well-worth seeing. It stays with you for a long time afterwards - haunting you in a way that is not entirely pleasant but somehow cathartic.


Blogger Jason Erik Lundberg said...

I'm still deeply conflicted by this film. There were scenes that I deeply loved and other that I deeply hated. I was also not ready for the extreme violence, and it disturbed me so much that I almost walked out of the theatre. My thoughts on the film are here.

Tue Jul 10, 08:34:00 am  
Blogger Lee said...

Thanks, both Clare and Jason. Now I have got to see this. I've just moved it up to no. 1 on my Amazon watch list.

Tue Jul 10, 10:36:00 am  
Blogger Andrew said...

Thanks, Clare. I'll certainly give it a look after your response to my request. I am "the voice of the people after all." Which people we'll probably not go into but their voice nonetheless. Hadn't expected disturbing violence but anyway...

Tue Jul 10, 11:16:00 am  
Blogger Susanna said...

the disturbing viloence part is a suprising thing for me to. I didnt realize that it was sad.

It definitly seems worth getting.

hope all is well with you.

Tue Jul 10, 03:12:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. I might just watch it if I have time.

Tue Jul 10, 05:48:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw this at the cinema earlier this year after Five Live's Mark Kermode raved and raved and raved about it. My thoughts on the film can be seen here

Tue Jul 10, 08:25:00 pm  
Blogger Gordon McCabe said...

Ditto, kimbofo.

Tue Jul 10, 11:27:00 pm  
Blogger Kay Cooke said...

What a great review. I hope your writing is going well.

Wed Jul 11, 03:34:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I feel truly behind the times - I'd only just heard of this film (off a blog) and somehow I missed all these brilliant reviews. One thing about the film is it certainly receives a lot of attention.

I've really enjoyed reading all these different opinions and glad I hadn't seen them before so I could be independent.

Wed Jul 11, 06:57:00 pm  

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