1.26.2007

Pandemonium and Pan Flutes

I saw Pan's Labyrinth last night, and I'm not quite sure what to say.

Fairy tales are, in their oldest forms, usually terribly violent. Wolves gobbling down lovable pigs or, worse, lovable children, are usually the least graphic elements.

The Spanish Civil War was equally so. (Of course, what would one would expect from a proxy war between Hitler and Stalin?)

But when a movie comes along advertising to be a "Gothic fairy tale" in the modern age, even when set during the Spanish Civil War, one doesn't precisely expect gut wrenching and sustained brutality.

Pan's Labyrinth is, in turns, the most lushly beautiful, and perhaps the most sustainedly brutal, movie you will see in some time. It really is stunning - the color has incredible depth, and the costumes and set design oscillate gorgeously between fantasy and reality. The fantastical scenes are absolutely real, with Guillermo del Toro rendering a lavish world out of thin air. And the last scene is one of the most powerful I've ever seen.

The "real-life" scenes are equally gorgeous, but here the emphasis may be more on "gore". Scenes of sustained torture, amputations (using bone saws and vodka, natch), and various other traumas of the war are lingered upon. Del Toro could have shown a fraction of the brutality he actually showed, and made his point.

All in all, the visuals and story are really wonderful, but if you go, be warned - the movie is tremendously violent.