"My mother told me to be wary of Fauns."
Today's film review is about a foreign film, a fantasy film. For the non-fantasy fans do not despair; there's also some raw reality involved.
Film suggestion for the day is 'El laberinto del fauno' or in english if you prefer 'Pan's Labyrinth'.
The film was first released in 2006 and was directed by the world acclaimed director Guillermo del Toro ('Hellboy'). In brief the plot goes somewhat like this:
"In 1944 fascist Spain, a girl, fascinated with fairy-tales, is sent along with her pregnant mother to live with her new stepfather, a ruthless captain of the Spanish army. During the night, she meets a fairy who takes her to an old faun in the center of the labyrinth. He tells her she's a princess, but must prove her royalty by surviving three gruesome tasks. If she fails, she will never prove herself to be the the true princess and will never see her real father, the king, again." (www.imdb.com)
On first thought, this seems to be another fairy-land story about a young girl and her fairy tales. But when it comes to the execution of the film, the story is somewhat different.
This film is a fascinating suggestion for numerous reasons; the fantasy-world meets the cold reality way too early on in the film, without letting the audience to get un-hooked from their screens. Nothing is what it seems, and the protagonists seems to be in a struggle of trying to cope both reality and fantasy with charisma and courage.
The unwavering of the plot is smoothly translated on our screens with del Toro's majestic directing. He never let us slip. Not for one instance. He manages to engross us so much into the story and the two parallel worlds he's trying to create, we can never stop wondering how he will treat his beautifully written scenario to the very end.
Of course the real gem in the story is the little young lady actress, Ivana Baquero, who steals the show with her sublte but also empathetic film performance. The audience can't help but indulge in her emotions, her fears and thoughts. Baquero's acting is so unique that manages to hold her own in a film set of grown-ups acting in a very cold and cruel war story.
The mesmerizing though hardly stops by Baquero's performance. I would like to comment on the superb performance of Baquero's on-screen step-father who's played by Sergi Lopez. What an on-screen presence. His very presence makes you overwhelmed and shudder with fear. He takes on the role of a regional capitan (commander) under Franco's dictatorship, and the very thought of crossing your path with such a fierce man makes your bones tremble with fright. He manages to keep his audience afoot, always hoping he will get what's coming to him for all the terror he spreads.
And that's what distinguishes him from all the super-villains in films nowadays.
And the ultimate performing task has to be given to the Faun/Pan. The remarkable acting of Doug Jones, the way the production design department presented him in our screens is simply why films are so magical. I can't talk a lot about the Faun without giving anything away, but I will simply say that it's because of the courage and the imagination of such actors that the cinema is still a thriving and booming industry and that is why one falls in love with it in the first place.
Even six years after it's release, I consider this film, as the best European product to have been produced in the last decade, thus marking it as a true masterpiece.
Of course we have to pay a worthy tribute to the musical score of the film, which is so beautifully written by Javier Navarrete. The glory of the score lies in the evocative instrumentation of transporting the mind into a world of magic, without letting go of the fact that sadness does still exist in there as well. Beautiful score. You can listen to the introduction here.
The reason I chose to review this film, is because it hold a particular place in my heart. Not because I was under the Franco dictatorship or have even experienced the ruthlessness of dictatorship at all, but because when I first sat down to watch this film, I went with blind eyes, not knowing what to expect and I got so much in the outcome.
This film is not for children, although it may appear this way. It is a very grown-up film, filled with love, honesty and imagination. And at the end of the day this is what filmmaking and arts in general need; to have the courage to imagine!
I hope you do get to enjoy watching this film, or if you have already I hope that opinions out there are mutual.
El Laberinto del Fauno/Pan's Labyrinth (2006)