pan's labyrinth

Last night I had the misfortune of viewing Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth, an experience I would gladly take back. It wasn't that the film was blatantly anti Franco's Spain and laughably pro Communist. That I could live with; that I was prepared for. I was ready to look around that to see what there was to offer. Turned out to be very little. It was, definitely the most disgustingly violent movie I have ever seen. It's been a long time indeed since I've had to turn away because I could not make myself watch. Of course fairy tales are often violent; Grimms' fairy tales are filled bloodshed. Even Hans Christian Anderson has violence in his tales. But not like this. There was no point to the violence, unless it was to say that Franco's Spain was a hell of oppression and moral depravity. There is no beauty in del Toro's work, only a freakish parody of beauty, as if he were the little boy from Anderson's The Snow Queen (a real fairy tale) who saw everything through a twisted perspective of hideousness. Twisted, perhaps, is the best word for the movie. It was a vile depiction of what might have been an adult's nightmare, but could never be an adult's fairy tale. Christianity was abandoned with a vengeance and paganism was glorified as the remnant of a long ago and maybe more peaceful era. What was left of any moral at all was a flimsy attempt at heroism. Ironically, it gave out a dimly Christian message at the end, as though the writers suddenly realized that pagan ideals are not conducive to strong moral points. In all, I was not so much disappointed as saddened. It left me thinking..."I really wish I hadn't seen that."


"Father Barry" said...

I'm going to be hiding for a couple of days until the inevitable bloodbath between you and Ben has subsided.

(Since I haven't seen the film, I don't really have much of an opinion on the matter. And yes, I know that hasn't stopped me much before.)

Catherine_Creagan said...

Hehe. Of course, I don't even know if Ben has seen it yet either. And I think you should just agree with me, since you will when you see it. =D

Unknown said...

Obviously, you have never seen Eli Roth's "Hostel."

Anonymous said...

Andersen - Danish, not German.

Catherine_Creagan said...

what of it?

Ben Milton said...

Ahem. Not to start a bloodbath, but the POINT of the movie is that violence is inextricably linked with evil, and the girl goes to heaven in the end because she refuses to resort to violence, even in the smallest way. Kind of a pacifist movie, if you ask me. The way the Pale Man symbolizes the Father in the movie was extremely striking to me, especially in light of the child-eater images in his room.

The movie also has a very pro-life undertone as well. Del Toro has said that the thing that turned him away from religion was his horror at seeing destroyed fetuses in a morgue one day.

The politics of the movie are a separate issue. The director sees alot of the problems in Spain today as being the result of Franco's rule, but whether he is right or not about that doesn't really matter to what he's trying to say.

And I think the movie was exquisitely beautiful, but then I suppose I have a somewhat more macabe aesthetic. You didn't think the Fawn was beautiful?

The movie contains some very dark and disturbing elements, but then so does Flannery O'Conor or T.H. White. They're using evil to SHOW you something. Concentrating on how disgusting the evil is missing the forest for the trees. It's like saying you didn't like the Passion because it had so much blood.

Yeah, and Anderson is (was) Danish.

Catherine_Creagan said...

Once again...what exactly does any of this have to do with Anderson being Danish? I don't THINK I claimed that he was German. Am I having a memory lapse?

As for beauty in the film. Um. The faun, yes, cool, well done, etc, etc. But not beautiful. I don't think fauns are supposed to be beautiful anyway. I was trying to remember moments, and thought of the part where she goes under the tree...started out looking cool. Until the frog turned inside out and she had to rummage through his guts to find the key.

Pro life message? Where? Because everyone wanted to save the baby? I'm not sure what del Torro's viewing of dead fetuses has to do with it...but one has to take into consideration my inability to make decent insights sometimes. I can be unbearably slow.

Da. The politics of the movie are indeed separate. I never thought they had anything to do with the film, other than as a setting which the director mistakenly thought was a basic good vs. evil scenario. (Or rather, it was a good vs. evil scenario, he just got a little mixed up)

As for missing the forest for the trees...well. I didn't mind the violence in The Passion, certainly. And other movies I've seen have had their share of blood too. Band of Brothers had plenty of shattered limbs and gruesome wounds; Black Hawk Down had the famous femoral artery clamp scene. And then there's The Last of the Mohicans and the matter of Magwa's palate...

It's not that I get het up over bloodshed on a regualar basis. It's just that this time it seemed so unspeakably disturbing.

I believe del Torro's message was really about the wisdom of children; that children see more than adults do. Which may be true about some things. Out of the mouths of babes, and all that. And I also think his primary goal was to make a fairy tale. However, part of the problem I had was that this girl is wiser because she has not been as influenced by human society (kind of Rosseau type, the "good guys" were living in the woods) and so she uses magical remedies instead of praying, and...I don't know. Maybe it bothered me more because it was Spain, and something about it did seem so false. That magic is what worked and the only mention of God (or Catholics) is a passing remark from a priest about how God didn't care what happened to the commies' bodies.

Why did you think the Pale Man symbolized the father? (note: might not want to capitalize father in the future...thought you were talking about God for a second. then i was REALLY confused. =D)

Catherine_Creagan said...

and btw, I think the pro life theme becomes even harder to see given the heroic portrayal of the physician assisted suicide.

Ben Milton said...

Hmm, ok I may have gotten a little carried away. I think the pale man represents the father because of the way he's sitting at the head of the table, in the same way as the father does at the banquet scene. ALso the images of the child-eater bring to mind the father's attitude towards kids. They exist for his benefit. Also the way it stumbles after her with it's arms outstretched, in the same way that the father does at the end when she poison's him.

As for beauty, I think alot of Terry Gilliam's movies are beautiful too, but it stems from these director's incredably refined sense of design. Maybe I just geek out about cool monsters. But I think Pan's Labyrinth had more than that; its cinematography, its presentation of the supernatural, especially the vision of heaven at the end, were just wonderful. All the blues and blacks throughout the movie led up to this awesome explosion of red (which she is wearing, color of martyrdom) and gold.

I think that the movie is fundamentally about contrasts. Obsessive, maniacal evil versus total innocence; violence versus the respect for life Ofelia has. The violence is supposed to be unspeakably disturbing. This man is meant to be the most evil human being you've ever seen. Otherwise we wouldn't see as clearly the contrast with Ofelia who won't even prick her brother's finger in order to fulfill her fairy-tale desinty. And I think you're right, it has a lot to with how children can see things adults are blind to.

Yes, it presents "truth" from a pagan perspective, but I got the feeling that even so it had clearly christian themes, especially the end. What she gains it Heaven. I don't think there can be any doubt about that. What does it say in the Ballad of the White Horse? Something like "only christians guard even pagan things."? Often these older beliefs, while wrong, can point you towards more universal truths. Del Toro isn't christian any more, but he was raised Catholic, and I get the feeling some of those themes stuck with him.

And while the assisted suicide of the tortured man was wrong, it's very understandable. Stuff like that happened all the time in war. And I don't think it really negates the strong "value life" theme. I thought that Chridren of Men was pretty prolife, even while it had assisted suicide too.

Catherine_Creagan said...

I guess I didn't think Ofelia had too much respect for life. She respected life she liked, certainly. But she had no qualms about dumping the entire vial of sleeping medication into her stepfather's glass (ONLY two drops, the doctor said, to make you fall asleep)Granted she was trying to make a getaway. But the whole thing? Even if it didn't affect the stepfather. Maybe he was a magical beast!

Not going to lie, I found the mandrake episode creepy. Smacked a little too much of black magic for my comfort. Feed it with blood? Ew. Usually the magic in fairy tales is a but tamer coming from the hero. At least in post-Christian tales...which brings me to another point.

Fairy tales, as such, mostly have Christian stuff all over the place. You've got your pre-Christian mythology and folklore, which of course would not. But for heaven's sake, this was in the 1940's. The gaping absence of any faith at all really bothered me, and maybe it shouldn't have. Maybe I'm being paranoid and close minded. But...ok, never mind. I was about to go off on the huge spiritual undercurrents during the entire Spanish Civil War, and we agreed that had little to do with the movie.

To me, anyway (not that I put a huge amount of thought into this, seriously. I just saw it, thought "that was awful" and moved on.) The "pro-life" undertones were also just not there. The wicked step father was more concerned with the life of the unborn baby than that of the mother...that dude who got euthanized, however "understandable" the circumstances. I don't know...this flick just gave me BAD vibes.

The contrasts weren't all that memorable to me, and certainly the end contrast was predictable. To me. But I'm getting the feeling that I'm already bitter about it so I might be significantly less inclined to accept whatever beauty it had to offer.

And from henceforward, this shall be known as the post with comments that were WAY longer than it.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and BTW, I was SIMPLY trying to make a pithy comment on your spelling (and Ben's for that matter). AnderSON is German. AnderSEN in Danish. That's it!

Catherine_Creagan said...

OOOOH....suddenly it all makes sense.

Unknown said...

AHHH....At last someone who had the same response as me. One can analyze and discuss for reams and reams but really I think I had the same gut response as Catherine - the bad vibes and all. I felt sick to my stomach after seeing this movie, and I know, I know, I am a wimp when it comes to violence - that russian guy's arm getting sawed off in the last season of 24 was pretty gross, but really the violence in this movie was so tasteless, so extreme, that the cinematographical (is that even a word) beauty, which was there, was overshadowed, or, in fact, smothered. So I am so glad to finally see that at least one person came away from that movie feeling as I did.

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