October 2015 Blindspot: Pan’s Labyrinth

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The Blindspot Series is a series of twelve posts spread throughout the year designed to offer bloggers a chance to catch up classic films we somehow may have missed. Started by The Matinee, here is my list of Blindspot films for 2015. Up next for October is Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.

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Pan’s Labyrinth, or rather my preconception of it, was rather misleading. It’s more of a dark fairy tale than a straight up horror film, but if I had done my research properly I probably would have known that. I also might have picked a more traditional horror film for the October blindspot, but as it is, I’m glad I got to see this film.

Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) is an imaginative young girl living in WWII Spain. The fascists have taken power, and at the start of the film, Ofelia and her mother find themselves moving in with one. Her mother has remarried and is pregnant with Captain Vidal’s (Sergi Lopez) son. Ofelia, and the rebels who hide out in the forest, are terrified of the murderous captain. In the midst of all of this political upheaval, Ofelia discovers a labyrinth in the forest, and a faun appears to her and assigns her three tasks, so that she can return home to the labyrinth. He believes that she is the lost princess they’ve been waiting for.

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The film is a mixture of a wartime revolutionary story, starring the housekeeper Mercedes (Maribel Verdu) and the local doctor (Alex Angulo). The second is the fantasy quest that Ofelia goes on, which leads her to encounter the horrific monsters the film is famous for. I could be missing something here, but on the first viewing at least, I’m not sure these two halves come together very well. I couldn’t tell what del Toro was trying to say by including these two distinct, though related, stories into one movie. The obvious assumption to make is that Ofelia is trying to escape the horrors of the real world with the fairy tale one. I’m not sure that makes a ton of sense, because the fairy tale world is pretty terrifying, and it definitely seems to concretely exist. So what type of escape could it offer?

Regardless of my confusion, I did really like the film. It seems to be an oft-repeated line when discussing del Toro’s films, but the visuals really make it stand apart from films directed by anyone else. The attention to production design, make up, and practical effects makes the film worth watching, more so than the narrative itself if you ask me. The design of the monsters is the most outstanding thing in the film, hands down, with the giant toad, the faun, and of course the (in)famous Pale Man (Doug Jones). That whole scene with the Pale Man is incredible, from the tension to the way the monster stiffly moves across the room.

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Thinking back on that scene, perhaps I can offer a theory. What happens, is Ofelia gets into trouble because she does not heed the faun’s warnings and in disobeying him, awakens the Pale Man and gets herself into trouble. Her mother is also always telling her to be better behaved, and to treat the Captain as her actual father. She won’t listen. In both worlds of the film, people (or monsters) are always trying to control her. So I suppose that’s a tie in, or a comparison between them? Still not sure where I’m going with this, but it seems like the worlds are trying to teach Ofelia a lesson somehow, a “you can’t always get what you want” type thing, even in a world intended as an escape.

I’m still really struggling with this film, in that I really can’t figure out what del Toro was trying to do here by mixing fantasy and realism into one movie. I’m sure there’s a point to it, but I’m just not grasping it on this first go around. However, even if the story isn’t fully connecting with me, I still really appreciated to overall visual design of the film, and especially the monsters. I’m looking forward to rewatching this one at some point, and hopefully it’ll make a bit more sense to me!

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“No. He won’t even know your name.”

Long story short: 3/4 stars

For Further Reading:

Roger Ebert “Great Movies” review
The New York Times review
The Guardian review

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4 responses to “October 2015 Blindspot: Pan’s Labyrinth

  1. Great movie for a blind spot review. Big fan of Pan’s. Been a while since I have seen it. Definitely one of the vilest villains ever put on screen.

    • I’m definitely going to have to watch it again, because I didn’t fully get what del Toro was going for here. I did enjoy the movie a lot though, so a rewatch won’t be a chore at all!
      Thanks for commenting 🙂

    • Yeah, I thought it was gonna be more of a traditional horror film for some reason and that’s why I picked it for the October blindspot. That doesn’t hugely matter tho, and I am definitely still glad I was able to catch up with the film for sure.

      Thanks for commenting!

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