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Scholar, Writer, Mother, Dreamer. Editor of Luminarium, an online library for English Literature of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Oscar Watch Continues: Pan's Labyrinth

Mexican director Guillermo del Toro's movie El Laberinto del Fauno, or Pan's Labyrinth, is up for 6 Oscars:

  • Art Direction
  • Cinematography
  • Makeup
  • Original Score
  • Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Foreign Language Film

I predict it will get the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, but not the others—it certainly deserves all the nominations, but there are stronger contenders in the other categories.

It is a haunting tale of a little girl named Ofelia, whose mother marries a captain in Franco's army during the Spanish Civil War of the 1940s. Her daily existence is so bleak that she enters the world of her storybooks and begins a quest to open the gateway to fairyland, where she is foretold as the princess returning.

The movie is without question beautiful, with a gruff, harsh beauty. It is not an easy movie to watch—there are such scenes of man's cruelty to man, shown without any apology or euphemism, that it is painful for the viewer. Certainly, do not take small children to see this film. Furthermore, the little girl's journey is so well depicted that I felt emotionally bruised during and after the film, and I couldn't stop crying for a long time. So, caveat emptor: unless you have emotional reserves you can spare, this is a movie to watch in lighter times.

There are two performances most worth mention. The first is by little Ivana Baquero, whose emotions are transparent on her luminous face and soulful eyes. She will be a force to reckon with as she ages. The second is by Maribel Verdú (of Y tu mamá también, 2001, fame), who plays the housekeeper for the captain. The scene right after she is surrounded by the horses and she lets her real feelings show, nearly slayed me.

The music is beautiful, especially the theme, which I know will haunt me at the border of sleep for a long time, but there is too little of it. The rest of the score disappears in the movie.

Del Toro directed, produced, and wrote this film—and the unity and cohesion of the end product is a testament to him as an auteur. The movie is a gem, and considering that he had the budget of a flea compared to big-money films such as Narnia, which are nearly devoid of magic despite their budgets, he acquits himself well. Somehow, somewhere, though, and I wish I could tell you where, this movie falls just a teensy bit short of brilliance. I will give it an A-.
 

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2 Comments:

Blogger Mark A. said...

NPR conducted an interview with del Toro about the film, and it was fascinating. He's brilliant man.

He also said he wanted to make the film so that both the pessimist and the optimist could have totally different interpretations of the film.

I Netflixed Cronos and The Devil's Backbone, but we haven't watched them yet. They're supposed to be just as good as Pan's.

February 24, 2007 3:18 AM  
Blogger Anniina said...

Well, I think if the last 30 seconds of the movie had been cut out (frankly, they were redundant), then he would have left more ambiguity to the ending, and that would be the case. The ending now was a little "hammer-on-the-head." If you didn't get to see del Toro and Alfonso Cuaron on Charlie Rose, you should check out that interview on PBS or charlierose.com. He is a delightful, intelligent man. The website panslabyrinth.com has pages of his sketchbook, where the idea for the movie was born. Fascinating stuff.

February 24, 2007 4:11 AM  

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