Thursday, March 22, 2007

Step into the Labyrinth

We all love our fairy tales. All of us have our own personal favourites, those charming tales of handsome princes braving impossible odds to save those damsels in distress. Totally unpolitically correct but what does women's suffrage mean to a five year old huddled under his blanket late at night reading his bedtime stories?

Ofelia's Bedtime Stories

Historians claim that classic fairytales that have been passed down to us have been sanitized and white-washed with the passing centuries, that most were originally parables laden with darker, far more sinister portents than can be imagined. Harboring relics from the olden days when children were ruled by fear: malicious step-parents with sinister hidden personalities; disobedient children who get baked into pies; winged hideous creatures who demand near impossible tasks of a hero.

Obviously the Spaniards - who incidentally brought us the Inquisition - have seen fit to tease us with some of those grim fairy tales.

Despite Charming Calvin's reluctance to view horror flicks, he seemed eager enough to step into the labyrinth. Pan's Labyrinth certainly isn't some sweet, delightful fantasy told to children at bedtime, resembling something closer to a horrific nightmare told to scare the bejeezus out of children who dare stray from the path drawn for them. Think a chilling, far more wicked Wonderland with the innocent Alice's role being taken by the far more intrepid, stalwart Ofelia who tries to find her way through a bewildering time in her life - incidentally set against the background of Generalissimo Franco's Spain torn apart by bloody civil war.

Life isn't all that beautiful then - there's a pervading sense of melancholy throughout - and the other nighttime creatures that populate her imagination don't help much, such as the supposed guide through the maze, the forgotten White Rabbit, who metamorphoses instead into a monstrous ghoulish demonic creature equipped with horrific horns and hoofs.

Surreal child-like fantasy it may be but the director leaves nothing white-washed showing us the savage brutality of the real world - that Ofelia in her childlike innocence tries her best to escape. Heads do roll here and they remain there, decapitated, bloodied and dead-eyed.

Throughout the sombre, dimly lit drama, there are times when you feel chills prickling up your spine - especially when creepy crawling critters make an unseemly appearance. Elves that come in the form of the hunky Orlando Bloom are fine by me but those that flitter about like little insects always make my flyswatter hand itch. More so when they resemble Guillermo del Toro's twisted mutant fairies.

Yet even as the unbelievable fantasy trails to an end, nothing quite prepares you for the shocking, almost disturbing conclusion.

Yes. Unless your mama's the poisoned-apple peddling sort, this is not your mama's bedtime stories.


Sam said...

The old Grimm brothers' fairytales were pretty dark what. It's Disney that sweetened it. =P

hrugaar said...

I saw this film just before Christmas - and (as I mentioned in my blog at the time) it's not one that I would recommend to everyone. I thought it a good movie, nevertheless, and I appreciated the fact that the blood and gore was underplayed, and a lot of the torture left implicit rather than directly shown.

A bit lacking on the handsome prince side, though. :o\

Stephen said...

I've been wanting to see it for a while, but it's been shown in very few cinemas here and none too frequently :( I think I'm just going to have to buy the DVD.

Musang said...

fairytales are stories engineered to make anyone who reads them to believe that everything will end with happiness...

i'm one of the mislead souls.


Yen said...

I was pleasantly misled to this movie. I thought it was very good - the fantasy a perfect foil for the movie's political motivations.

Will said...

Doc, whenever I hear the phrase "surreal child-like fantasy," I always think of you.

Alex said...

I watched this movie about 4 months ago, or so. Maybe more. I have to say I'm pretty sure some things must get lost in translation. To this day, El Laberinto del Faunto remains one of my favorite movies of all time.

It is dark, grungy, gruesome and cruel. It is exactly what life must have been for a child in the same situation. I didn't expect it to end happily, though I certainly did not see that ending coming.

It made me real sad and gloomy, at first, but then, after careful reviewing of the ending, I think everyone comes to find that it indeed is a happy ending from the viewpoint of Ofelia at least.

I'm proud of this movie, even though it is entirely set in Spain, the movie is from a Mexican director and writer. If you ask me it should have been nominated for far more awards at the Oscars... but seeing as how The Departed won... well, no comment.

I hope you enjoyed this movie more than hated it. Love your blog as always.


savante said...

Don't mind the sweeter version, sam. Wouldn't have liked all that dreary grim stories as a child.

Hardly any handsome guys in the film as you said, ru :P

Go catch it if you can. It's pretty great, stephen.

Well, not everything leads to a happy ending as Ofelia finds out, musang. So go watch the movie.

True! it was fascinating but it still had a deeper undercurrent, yen.

Surreal and child-like, me? GASP! Will!

Just an amazing script. Wonder who wrote it, alex.


Alex said...

The director wrote it, Mexican director and screenplay writer Guillermo del Toro. He made that movie Mimic... and Hellboy of course :). Which I loved as well. And yes, that post on my blog is japanese. Haha, I actually have an exam tomorrow, that's why I came home early :(. Yes, exams on a saturday, HURRAY!