LOOK INTO MY EYES
The Faun (Doug Jones) explains to Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) why she was led into the labyrinth. Photo: Picturehouse
re you a fervent movie lover? If you are, you won’t want to miss the extraordinary movie Pan’s Labyrinth. Written, produced and directed by the admirable Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, Pan’s Labyrinth is considered by many critics one of the best movies of 2006 and in our opinion one of the best movies of the decade so far.
Sergi López should be awarded for the role of Captain Vidal. He
delivers a remarkable performance as a detestable, selfish and
manipulating character in the film. Maribel Verdú, Ariadna Gil, Doug
Jones and newcomer Ivana Baquero all deliver superb performances.
Del Toro has delighted us with several movies, including the acclaimed 2001 jewel, “The Devil’s Backbone,” an unforgettable film that landed on the top ten lists of many publications throughout the nation and winner of several international awards. We haven’t seen del Toro’s work since 2004 (“Hellboy”) but the wait was worth it.
Set in Spain in 1944, right after the Spanish Civil War, Pan’s Labyrinth is a dark fairy tale where innocence and defiance are lost and found in a forest of good and evil.
The young and talented Ivana Baquero plays Ofelia, a 12-year-old slightly disgruntled girl who’s dragged into the middle of a dark forest because her mother, Carmen (Ariadna Gil), is carrying the unborn child of Captain Vidal (Sergi López). Under Francisco Franco’s army, Vidal heads a garrison to ‘protect’ the people from straggling rebels still loyal to the old republic. Although the Spanish Civil War officially ended on April 1, 1939, many rebels were scattered throughout the country trying to mount an insurrection. Captain Vidal’s job is to rid his assigned region from these rebels and spin a positive view of Franco’s fascist rule over Spain among the populace.
In a recent interview1, del Toro spoke of the “urgency of disobedience and the urgency to stand-by what you think,” regarding the overall theme of the movie, an idea as relevant today as it was back in 1944 Spain. In history, the road of the straggling Spanish rebels and the ideals of a democratic (and/or socialist) republic are paved with futile and tragic romanticism (at least until the late 1970s) as Franco’s fascist state blooms into the status quo.
Young Ofelia, however, wages a different battle of ideas herself as she is led by a mysterious (and rather large) insect deep into the secrets of the forest. Once inside a mysterious labyrinth, Ofelia is greeted by a stranger in the form of a faun (in Roman mythology, a creature who’s half man, half goat), marvelously played by Doug Jones. The faun believes Ofelia is more than just a little peeved girl and assigns a series of tasks in order to find her true resolve and lineage. By now, we’re knee-deep in a creepy fantasy world and, for all we know, Ofelia and her family could soon be faun food. Throughout her indulgence in this fantasy world we are left to wonder for sometime if her fate is on the same historical path of the Spanish Loyalists. Should she believe in the unknown or be a good daughter, stay home and conform to the established regime?
THE DEVIL’S TRAIN WRECK
The Spanish rebels are a brave (crazy, foolish, etc.) bunch to be
messing with one of Francisco Franco’s meanest disciples. Captain Vidal
(Sergi López) gets the horns after rebels blow up a supply train.
Meanwhile, Ofelia’s mother, Carmen, is very ill and very pregnant. Captain Vidal could care less about her illness, however, so long as she can deliver a son to propagate fascism throughout the Iberian Peninsula (Is Vidal the reincarnation of Darth Vader?) But aside from our bad wishes, Vidal has other things going against him. Mercedes, played by Maribel Verdú, is his somewhat trusted housekeeper, who has more up her sleeves (or folded in her dress) than meets the eye. On screen, Verdú has a history in luring men into more than they bargained for. In “Y Tú Mamá También” (from director Alfonso Cuarón, who co-produced Pan’s Labyrinth with del Toro) she is the enchanted creature that pulls two teenage boys into a labyrinth of emotional and sexual exploration. As Mercedes, Verdú once again tugs and pushes the mind and heart of the not-so-innocent. Like Ofelia, Mercedes navigates between Captain Vidal’s outpost and a secret world as well, albeit not as extraordinary and beautiful but certainly full of passion. She sympathizes with the Spanish rebels and sees Ofelia as a victim of circumstance under the dangerous and atrocious Vidal.
Del Toro’s love for oversized insects and humanoids leaps into a new level of refined beauty and uncanny rendition in Pan’s Labyrinth [For you sci-fi/ fantasy lovers, his earlier bug and creature efforts include Mimic (1997), Blade II (2002) and Hellboy (2004)]. Cinematographer Guillermo Navarro, Special Effects Supervisor Reyes Abades, the visual effects crew at CafeFX and Make-up Artist José Quetglás do an exquisite job of blending the natural and supernatural in this movie, creating a bewildering, beautiful and creepy environment for the cast. And if the visuals have not completely pulled you into del Toro's enchanting tale, the haunting music of Javier Navarrete will finish the job.
Peppering politics and history over this exquisite plate of courage and fantasy has resulted in a winning dish for del Toro. This is a magnificent piece of cinematic work you shouldn't miss.
LOOK INTO MY HANDS
Doug Jones offers Ofelia another perspective of the labyrinth -- the
kind that eats little boys and girls. As the Pale Man, Jones portrays a
very nightmarish component of Ofelia’s trial. Photo: Picturehouse
SERY COLÓN and RAFAEL MERINO CORTÉS
1 – Interview with NY1’s George Whipple, December 27, 2007
|Spanish with English sub-titles
Rated: R- Restricted
Running Time: 1hr 52mins
Released through Picturehouse (the same company that will distribute
“El Cantante,” the Hector Lavoe story, in the summer of 2007)
Guillermo del Toro’s other films are:
Cronos (1992) (Winner of 9 Arieles, Mexican Academy Awards)
The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
Blade II (2002)
|Pan’s Labyrinth was nominated for 6 Academy Awards, including Best Screenplay and Best Foreign Language Film. It won for
(Guillermo Navarro), Best Art Direction
(Eugenio Caballero, art director,
Pilar Revuelta, set decorator)
and Best Makeup
(David Martí, Montse Ribé) -- Ed. 3/09/07
Captain Vidal, General Franco, Our Friends
If you cheered for the Spanish rebels in the film, then you are a
terrorist sympathizer and should check yourself into the nearest FBI
field office. In fact, dictator Francisco Franco (not shown in the
film) would be our ally and friend under the current US administration
-- and, indeed, the fascist Franco regime was an ally of the United
States from the 1950s on.
During World War II, Spain adopted a pro-Axis (Nazi Germany, Fascist
Italy and the Empire of Japan), non-belligerency stance (for example,
Franco offered Spanish naval facilities to German ships) until
returning to complete neutrality in 1943, when the tide of the war had
turned decisively against Germany and its allies –- and, according to
historians, after Winston Churchill deposited a large amount of money
into a Swiss bank account for Franco and his generals. However, a
number of Spanish soldiers and spies “unofficially” fought under the
Nazi flag in Europe.
The UK and US would spend a few years peeved at Franco over his posture
in WWII. However, fascism and capitalism would become good friends fast
during the Cold War that followed.
While non-government trade unions
and all opponents across the Spanish political spectrum were
suppressed, tightly controlled or exterminated (the only legal "trade
union" was the government-run Sindicato Vertical), cultural activities
were subject to censorship and many were plainly forbidden on
various, often spurious, "politically incorrect" grounds. But due to
Spain's strategic location, the United States entered into a trade and
military alliance with Spain. This historic alliance commenced with
United States President Eisenhower's visit in 1953, which resulted in
the Pact of Madrid. And in 1955, Spain was admitted into the United