Movie Review: No 99. Pan’s Labyrinth

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Movie Review: No 99. Pan’s Labyrinth

A fantasy film – we’re in dangerous territory already.

Then again, if there’s any fantasy I can enjoy, it is the fantasy of a labyrinth or secret garden. I have often said that one day I hope to own a home with secret passages and hidden rooms…

Dear Millionaires

I’m sure this desire stems from early viewings of the David Bowie movie, ‘The Labyrinth’, to which this film draws many parallels. Ofelia bears a striking resemblance  to Sarah… and Ofelia’s newborn brother?

…Let’s just say, “he reminds me of the babe”.

In fact, ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ is pretty much ‘The Labyrinth’ on ice. Not the frozen kind, but the violence-inducing drug kind. If you thought the headless muppets in ‘The Labyrinth’ were bad, then you’re going to lose your own head over the brutal bashing of a poor farmer’s son at the start of this film. It’s ‘American History X’ meets ‘The Secret Garden’… a combination I never thought possible, probable or advisable.

In fact, there are ghoulish elements of many films here. Alice in Wonderland is an obvious inspiration, and Heath Ledger’s Joker would find a friend and ally in Captain Vidal.

Mercedes: [to Vidal] I’m not some old man! Or a wounded prisoner! M@therf@#*er… Don’t you dare touch the girl. You won’t be the first pig I’ve gutted!

It is a Spanish language film, so subtitles were necessary for me (although I do always enjoy picking out every fifth word or so when listening to Spanish). Oddly enough, despite the graphic violence, I did enjoy the film. It’s impossible to enjoy it as much as a film starring David Bowie, but I did enjoy it. I guess it was nice to see a young girl unafraid of nightmarish things.

It is also odd to watch a film that feels like it should be for children, yet deals with topics like war, summary execution, and un-anaesthetised limb amputation. Such is the power of a labyrinth, that its mystery inspires enough awe in me to overlook all of these things.

Watching it, I was reminded of my last visit to Spain back in 2005. I was there to visit my friend Jesus (Hi Chus, if you’re reading!) At the time he was living with his parents, where I became a very grateful guest. Their house, which can only be described as a palace, had many features that I had previously only encountered in books an movies. You name it, they had it – pool bar, library with moving stepladder, spiral staircase to the upstairs cinema (complete with red velvet curtains), hedge animals, and – of course – a hedge maze. Unfortunately the ground was too muddy for me to check out the maze at the time, but it’s very existence was enough to inspire wonder in my 21-year-old brain.

Owning a house with some sort of secret passage, hidden room or even maze remains a life goal and bucket list item of mine. Therefore, to me, watching this film was like watching an episode of ‘Grand Designs’.

7.5 pumpkins.

Have you seen ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’? Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments below.

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2 responses »

  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. Labyrinth is a classic in story, music, and acting. Is it just me or did muppets do better acting than most people? Pan’s Labyrinth had an eerie tonality to it, while at the same time it seemed more about the local issues then the preternatural portions of the film. The struggle of her harsh reality and the life she is destined is downplayed. Lovely film, don’t get me wrong. I do appreciate that they used a body suit for Pan and not some computer generated image. To me that sold the film was to see such a rendition of a cedar, so earthy yet from another world.
    We don’t get movies as good as Secret Garden and Labyrinth anymore. Such a pity.

    • The poor kids of today… filmmakers don’t “leave much to the imagination”, do they? Pan’s Labyrinth was such an odd combination of themes that it completely threw me.

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