Sorry, guys. This one is rated R. Although I really wish it wasn't.
Sometimes if the book you are teaching out of discusses a movie in depth, perhaps you should rewatch it. When this movie first came out, it destroyed me. This was my movie of choice. It introduced me to Guillermo del Toro! For that alone, I have to thank this movie. (Admittedly, I had seen Blade II and Hellboy previous to this film, but those were popcorn movies where I ignored the director. Call me snobby.)
Pan's Labyrinth is a hard movie to define. On the surface, it is a dark fairy tale, following the tale of Ofelia and her wicked stepfather. Her desire for escape leads her to discover that she is the princess of the underworld, cursed with amnesia after escaping to the surface world. Her encounters with the faun place her through trials meant to return her to a world that admires her and grants her immortality.
But this is also a gruesome war movie, following a captain in Franco's regime. He is tasked with eliminating the rebels hiding in the hills of Madrid. He is psychotic and yearns for immortality. He is obsessed with preserving his male lineage and ensuring that he will be known for generations to come through his brutality.
In the end, this is a movie about wanting to be known. As our book illustrates, del Toro uses the motif of a broken watch to display time escaping us at every moment. Ofelia is losing her mother in front of her and tries to save her through supernatural means. Time is slipping away from her as the birth of her half-brother draws nearer. Her own mortality is stressed through the fawn, who jeers at the concept of time passing. He understands that aging corrupts and destroys both innocence and personality. Her terrifying quests only push Ofelia to conquer her fear of death so she can achieve eternal life. The captain, similarly, hates his mortality. His obsession with his father's watch reminds him of the fragility that his father went through and his attempt to take control of his own death. He creepily views himself in the mirror as weak and mortal, slashing at the human captain rather than the man of power.
Outside of the symbolism and motifs, this movie is just gorgeous. Perhaps we have grown accustomed to desaturization and a cool color palate, but this just works really well here. Del Toro illustrates the beauty in the grotesque. He has the sensibilities of Peter Jackson when it comes to making fantasy creatures believable. But unlike Jackson, he gives his creations a hard edge. They lack perfection, which makes them both terrifying and memorizing. Perhaps the greatest compliment you could give a special effect is the fact that you forget it was a special effect. Del Toro somehow takes that a step further and creates items that you believe are real, but still leave you with a sense of terror and awe.
This is a beautiful movie and I have to watch it more often.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.