Thought of the Day

I don't believe in morality, but I believe in ethical conduct as set out by His Holiness the Dalai Lama: "Ethical conduct = a way of behaving that respects others’ right to be happy".

Thursday, 14 December 2006

El Laberinto Del Fauno

Finally, a bit of content and substance to this blog which has recently been a mere display of products! The only recent variation was that, following Personalita’ Confusa’s advise, I started criticising products instead of promoting them, but still this is not the aim of this site. Amicacarmilla is supposed to be a London diary ~ so the header suggests, but I would like, every now and then, to go beyond the “I did this, I went there and I saw that”, to offer a bit of critical angle and direction. So, here is my review to the last film I saw in the cinema: Pan’s Labyrinth or El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan's Labyrinth).
Directed by Guillermo del Toro Written by Guillermo del Toro (screenplay) Cast Ivana Baquero ~ Ofelia Sergi López ~ Capitano Vidal Maribel Verdú ~ Mercedes Ariadna Gil ~ Carmen Doug Jones ~ Faun/Pale Man Alex Angulo ~ Dr Ferreiro

Plot "Pan's Labyrinth" is the story of a young girl that travels with her mother and adoptive father to a rural area up North in Spain, 1944. After Franco´s victory. The girl lives in an imaginary world of her own creation and faces the real world with much chagrin. Post-war Fascist repression is at its height in rural Spain and the girl must come to terms with that through a fable of her own.
(c) IMDB

My Spanish teacher will be glad to read that I understood most of the dialogues and sometimes even preferred to listen to the lines rather than reading the confusing subtitles. Despite learning with an Argentinean teacher, Spanish from Spain sounds to me more intelligible than South American Spanish because words seem to be pronounced more prominently and distinctively.
First of all, let’s clarify the title. Faunus (pictured below) is the Roman counterpart to the Greek Pan, a good spirit of the forest, plains, and fields ("Me? I've had so many names... Old names that only the wind and the trees can pronounce. I am the mountain, the forest and the earth. I am... I am a faun. Your most humble servant, Your Highness" Pan). El Laberinto del Fauno is an epic story developing within two parallel settings: a fantasy kingdom based on Spanish folklore and Greek mythology is set against a historically defined background in the 20th century: the '44 Spanish civil war. Here an analogy with Tim Burton’s gothic stories and parallel worlds is inescapable, but, unlike his films, Del Toro’s two realms never really interfere one another. Ofelia’s imagination is their only point of contact, and her infiltration into Pan’s labyrinth is absolutely legitimate because her fantasy, nourished by heaps of fairy tales and mythical stories, belongs to that underground *reality* which will eventually rescue her. From a formal viewpoint, the tension and suspense were so well apportioned throughout the film that you could not avoid to be apprehensive for Ofelia’s destiny during her odd quests, even when her mistake of falling into the Pale Man's banqueting temptation looked implausible. However, it was the persona of the captain Vidal, head of the fascist faction hunting the communist guerrilla in the remote countryside of an unspecified Spain, what I was wary of most! He was more than just a token of pride and evil. His daily ritual gestures and vicious reactions belied a perverted behaviour which went beyond human cruelness and clearly brought to mind Hitler’s pathological zest (did you watch the psychological analysis in Der Untergang starring a startling Bruno Ganz as a convincing declining Fuerer, who you may also remember in Der Himmel ueber Berlin?). My comrades’ first response to this film was “cringy” (Amanda literally cringed and Joe kept covering his eyes in disgust), but they would agree with me that the really terrifying scenes were confined to the historical (and alas truthful) atrocities: the extreme medical remedies doctor Ferreiro had to resource to and the fascists’ torture methods and suppressive violence against any rebellious suspect, which were on occasion unwarranted, and thus even more excruciating. Someone argued that the Manichean distinction between communism and fascism was too one-sided and polirised, but it is a fact that that contextualised communist party was at the time a better option to Franco's long dictatorship. Visually, the contrast between the lunar landscape and the warm colours of father-earth betrayed strong artistic influences. Goya's Saturn Devouring His Son (see below), by way of example, indubitably inspired the Pale Male character (above), and all the other creatures could have easily materialised from Borges’ book, El libro de los seres imaginarios, 1967 (The Book of Imaginary Beings, 1969). The many cultural references to mythology (e.g. the god Pan, the labyrinth evoking the Minotaur’s story, etc.) added an ageless lure to this film which will be arguably cited amongst fantasy classics, such as The Brothers Grimm (which I haven't seen), Die Unendliche Geschichte and Alice in Wonderland (to name just a few).

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