“Pan’s Labyrinth” is a Guillermo del Toro film that may or may not be a war movie. It certainly fits into the fantasy genre. The movie was written by del Toro based on notes and sketches he did in a notebook over several years. Not only did he write the screenplay (which was nominated for an Academy Award), but he translated the dialogue and wrote the subtitles. He turned down double the budget offered by a Hollywood studio because the money came with the demand that it be done in English. Was the movie a labor of love? Duh. The movie was a big hit with critics and discerning movie goers (you know – the ones who are willing to read subtitles). It premiered at Cannes where it received a twenty-two minute standing ovation. It ended up winning Oscars for Art Direction, Cinematography, and Makeup (which must have made Doug Jones who played the Faun and the Pale Man feel better about the hours he spent in getting make-up). It was nominated for Best Foreign Film (it lost to “The Lives of Others”, but probably should not have).
|a faun and a fawn|
|have sweet dreams after watching this movie|
|the worst monster in the movie|
“Pan’s Labyrinth” is an amazing movie. It is one of those movies that deserves multiple viewings. The special effects are outstanding. There is a mixture of CGI, animatronics, and make-up (that Oscar was a no brainer). The scares are potent. Stephen King (who saw the film with del Toro) squirmed when the Pale Man chased Ofelia. If those images were in del Toro’s head for years, he must have lost some sleep. The score fosters the eerie vibe and the cinematography is stellar. The Oscar for Art Direction was well deserved. Vidal’s room is designed to mirror the inside of his watch. Did I mention this is not a kid’s movie? Not only is it scary, but the non-fantasy segments can be gory. Like most guerrilla wars. There is a visceral fire-fight in the forest that includes execution of the wounded. There is torture for confession. And there is a dedicated counterinsurgent who would fit well in the Gestapo. In fact, Vidal belongs in Satan’s secret police. He is one of the most villainous characters I have encountered. Lopez sinks his fangs into the role, but the rest of the cast is strong. Baquero is perfect as Ofelia. She auditioned so well that del Toro changed the age of the character to fit her. Verdu is the rare strong woman in a war movie.
But is it a war movie? It fits most definitions. It not only is set in a war situation, but it includes combat. However, for purposes of my 100 Best War Movies list, I think I will not consider it for inclusion. I am currently leaning toward excluding movies that clearly fall into another genre before they would be considered to be part of the war movie genre. This is why I probably will not include any Westerns on my list. “Pan’s Labyrinth” is much more comfortable in the fantasy genre. I do not think war movie comes to mind when people think of the movie. With that said, it is a great movie and should be seen by all cinephiles whether they are war movie buffs or not.
GRADE = A