Hey folks, Harry here with a look at PAN'S LABYRINTH from Down Under. Watch out for some spoilers, seems another bunch of praise - but with far more detail than the reviews we've had so far, so if you want to know what happens - here it is.
Hi AICN, Not sure if you can use this review - I wrote one for Steamboy quite a while ago , which you guys published (Click HERE). Anyway, I've just returned from a screening of Pan's Labyrinth at the Gold Coast Film Fantastic here in beautiful Queensland, Australia. My interest in this film has been piqued by the various hyperbolic reviews I've seen on sites like AICN and CHUD. However, I've been somewhat frustrated by the lack of detail in these reviews and I now understand why - it's hard to describe this film without resorting to superlatives. If you're only familiar with the work of Guillermo del Toro through his American efforts, then you are in for a surprise, because Pan's Labyrinth is of an order of magnitude more impressive than his best Hollywood film to date - Hellboy. The story revolves around Ofelia, a young girl who arrives in a Mountain Camp to stay with her mother's new husband, Captain Vidal, who is commanding a force that is there to crush a final pocket of resistance against Spain's new fascist regime. There, she stumbles across a labyrinth, within which dwells the eponymous faun, Pan, and his fairy pets. Pan tells Ofelia she is a fairy princess and charges her with three tasks before she can return to the fairy kingdom. Meanwhile, members of Vidal's household are conspiring against him in aid of the rebels. To reveal more would do a disservice to anyone going into this film, suffice it to say, the two plot threads interweave on a number of narrative and thematic levels, coming together in a shattering finale that is both surprising and inevitable. This film works on so many levels that the mind just boggles. Every frame is filled with recurring iconography and detail; beautifully composed and not a shot wasted. It is also a lesson on set-ups and pay-offs, as del Toro juggles so many elements, without dropping the ball once. He takes the time to bask in the details within scenes, adding dimension to characters, both major and minor. There is one scene where a rebel is about to lose his leg to a gangrenous wound - he asks for a moment, just to remember it as it is before it is gone forever. In another scene, Vidal is about to torture a stuttering rebel and offers him a chance to go free that had me holding my breath. These are the details that elevate Pan's Labyrinth from greatness to brilliance - and the film is packed with them. The performances are all superb. Captain Vidal commands attention every second he is on screen. He's unpredictable, powerful and full of menace - a classic screen villain. The girl who plays Ofelia reminded me of the young Natalie Portman in The Professional (Leon). Pan himself is wonderfully affected and creaking with age. The makeup and effects are excellent, with only a couple of distant explosions reminding me that CGI is at play. The baby-eating demon with eyes in his hands is great - something straight out of a Clive Barker nightmare. This is a very dark film - both visually and thematically. Del Toro is not afraid to show the gore, and there are moments of brutal violence that punctuate the film (like a guy getting his face bashed in with a bottle) and he keeps the camera on the action where perhaps many directors would turn away. This is one of those films where you catch yourself halfway through and think: this is something special. And it is. Better by far than any Hollywood film I've seen this year. In, fact I rate this in my top two films of the year so far, and they're both foreign language (The other, Lady Vengeance, I was fortunate enough to catch at BIFF last month). For me, Pan's Labyrinth puts Guillermo del Toro on the map as a director to watch. It's just a pity that it won't attract the audiences it deserves because so many people are afraid of films with subtitles. Well that's their loss, I say. Pan's Labyrinth is seriously as good as the hyperbole surrounding it. Maybe even better. I can't wait to see it again (whenever that may be). Peace. If you use this, call me Happyfat.