Entering the Labyrinth
I just went to see Pan's Labyrinth with two of my best friends. Pan's Labyrinth is a foreign film, all the dialogue is in Castillian Spanish (lovely langauge!), and it is a combination war story/fantasy film.
I'm still processing this movie. It's been compared, in terms of emotional impact and brutality, to Schindler's List, and the comparison is not unwarranted. It's not quite so much so as SL, but close enough.
The requirements for watching this film are:
1. A strong stomach. If you can watch Schindler's List, you'll be fine. If you can't handle Schindler's List, watch Pan's Labyrinth at your own risk.
2. An appreciation for good fantasy (MacDonald, Gaiman, etc)
3. A willingness to believe in fairies.
Most reviews of the film spin it as a young girl in war-torn Spain who creates her own fantasy world to escape to. That's a valid interpretation of the film, up to a point; the first half of the movie is unclear about whether or not these fantastic things that Ofelia experiences are real or the product of her active imagination. But at a certain point (the mandrake root screaming) it becomes clear that there is at least a real connection between the two worlds. From that point on, the physical events become harder to explain if Ofelia's world is not real.
It seemed to me that the film had several strong themes: courage, parents and children, humility, and sacrifice. Sometimes the themes ran seperately, but they often seemed to come together into a larger theme (meta-theme?). Specifically, one of the themes seemed to be the courage necessary to willing undergo the humility and sacrifices of being a parent. (All credit on these thoughts go to Rachel Motte, who brought them up. Rachel, blog about the movie soon, I want to hear more!) The viewer is shown a mother without the courage to go through loneliness for her daughter's sake, a son who cannot bear to hear any mention of his father--a man who could die well, and a daughter who will give up everything for her baby brother.
The tagline for the film sums it up the best: "Innocence has a power that Evil cannot imagine." Pan's Labyrinth allows evil to do its worst, and doesn't pull any punches. But it also shows the efficacy of innocence, and leaves the viewer amazed at the power released by sacrifice.