About a year ago, I wrote about my decidedly negative thoughts on Pan's Labyrinth. This week found me back with Guillermo Del Toro's "masterpiece", and though I found much more to appreciate, I didn't find much more to like. Maybe another viewing would fully win me over, but right now the film falls into the category of a film I respect much more than I like.
Since enough has been said in reviews about the film, I'm going to cheat and just put some things you should pay attention to next time you sit down with Ofelia.
- The not-so-subtle references to "Alice in Wonderland". The fancy dress Ofelia is given, along with plot points revolving around going down holes and forbidden foods, acknowledge the film's place within its genre's history while allowing the film to branch out in its own way. It's telling that Ofelia's "Alice in Wonderland" dress ends up with mud all over it.
- Repetitions of the opening shot. Of course, it's there in the end, but it's also referenced in other parts of the film. Most notable is the shot of Ofelia after completing her first task. As she walks out from under the tree, she leans against it and the camera zooms in. It recalls the opening shot and points to it as a victory of sorts. Depending on what you believe about the ending, it is a victory, and this shot in the middle of the film lends to certain interpretations of the ending.
- Del Toro's compositions. Early in the film, Del Toro gives us some wonderful deep focus shots. Their beauty adds to the luscious world he has created, and even if you don't like the film, you can appreciate the craft that goes into it.
- The lack of graphic violence. After watching this film, I recall hearing somebody discuss The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. They said that most people recall it as an extremely bloody film when very little is actually shown. In the same way, there is significantly less blood throughout Pan's Labyrinth than most people remember. The scene where a man is beaten to death with a rock is shown completely in shadow. We never actually see the Captain torture anyone, though it is strongly implied. Del Toro often lets us imagine the worst without us realizing. This stands in stark contrast to someone like Tarantino who constantly emphasizes the violence in his films, or lack thereof.