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Update after second viewing:
Still thank God I don’t need to decide on anything here, but if I had to, I would shed more sympathy on the film than I did after first watching it. I still think the script is tumbling over its own feet when alternating a very classical (and hence hery simple) "Three Tasks" structure with a "Evil Stepfather" narration, not making very clear why not concentrate on the one or the other. And I still think that each element (each task, each character, each dramatic turn) does not get the time it would deserve, and that the film should have been much much longer or much much more concise. But I was more enchanted than the first time around, by the desperate girl more than by the fairies and the monsters. So while there is still no Citizen Kane anywhere near – it is one of those films where the desire of watching again (and again) may be really rewarding.

Initial article (May 07)
Thank God I do not need to decide on the best films of the year, the best foreign language films, the best arthouse films, or what an arthouse film is and what is not, for that matter. There have been a couple of interesting films in the foreign language sections, and argument is out whether those were not partially better than what contended in the main sections of the main awards. Pan’s Labyrinth is clearly a very well made and original film. It is among those films that allow themselves the clash between reality and fantasy, hence enabling stronger contrasts through the switch between the two domains than would have been possible if the film was exclusively set in one of them.

Both worlds are powerful: the vicious brutality of civil war military leaves no room for sympathy with the Franco troops, they fight a brutal war against their own people and do not hestitate to torture, humiliate, kill and abuse. The creatures our little heroine encounters on the other side of reality, however, are at times equally blindfoldedly murderous (as the guy with the eyes in the hands – whatever his name was) or at least of intransparent and ambiguous moral standing (as the Faun, who – I have to say – disappointed a bit in terms of animation, which was sad given he has so much screen time). The plot is easy and drives the story finely along through the tasks that are being given to the "chosen one". Yet not all of these have a satisfying resolution, sometimes the scenes end as if the director was glad enough to have gotten her out of this new trouble alive and in one piece, disregarding issues of dramatic build-up and scene resolution.

As a fairy tale, however, the film has the right to all these liberties, of course. Not all of them are intentional, however, and I really do believe that the film suffers from incoherence in script quality. In total, I loved to watch it, but with expectations having been as high as they were ("the Citizen Kane of fancy cinema" – "easily the best film in the last couple of years"), a bit of a stale feeling lingered…

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  1. By Crimson Peak (G. del Toro 2015) | thomas4cinema on 11 Jan 2016 at 11:34 am

    […] am not what you would call an unambiguous fanboy. While I loved Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth, I stayed lukewarm on his Pacific Rim and Hellboy […]

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