Movie Review: Pan’s Labyrinth

Movie Review: Pan’s Labyrinth

Bryan and I saw this movie a few weeks ago when it opened. I’m not a big fan of the fantasy genre, I must admit, so I went reluctantly after securing promises that I would get to pick the next movie we saw. For this reason I walked in without much expectation of enjoying it, but I surprised myself: I liked it.

The film contains your basic elements of a good drama: the hero, the bad guy, the oppressed people, and the revolutionists. In this case, one of the heroes is a young girl named Ofelia, and the bad guy is her step father, Capitan Vidal, who is head of a remote outpost in Spain. Ofelia’s mother is widowed, and comes across as a weak woman, though it may only seem that way because she is late in her pregnancy and experiencing complications. But it is implied that she has married this man because she needs to be taken care of.

In contrast, Ofelia is strong and brave. There is a particular scene I loved, one involving a giant frog and large creepy-crawling bugs. I flinched just WATCHING the scene (though my fingers), but Ofelia remained clear-headed and innovative under pressure. I was in awe of that.

We recently watched the movie, Duma, with Ruthie. It is about a boy who is also very brave and tenacious and quick-thinking. Ever since I saw Duma I have wondered, how realistic is it of me to hope my children will have such character? Is this a Hollywood expectation only? Are real children capable of such maturity under pressure? I wondered the same things as I watched Ofelia, and I hope for my own daughter to possess strength and bravery like what I saw in the characters of both of these movies.

The story also caused me to think through how I parent Ruthie, how I prepare her to think critically, and whether I am channeling her strong-willed tendencies in a positive direction or if I am simply crushing them. Throughout the movie Ofelia was faced with issues of choice and obedience: when is it right to disobey? When is it wrong? And how does one discern the difference?

Ofelia and Mercedes, who is an employee of the Capitan’s and one of the heroes of the movie, are meek as they need to be under a dictator (not weak, but meek as Christ was), but ferocious and brave when called for. And the Capitan is a bully, for sure – an exaggerated bully some might say, and one hopes that his demise is just around the corner. He is an uncomplicated character. I tend to prefer stories in which the lines between the bad and the good are blurred, because I think this is more indicative of real life. But the Capitan’s simple and exaggerated badness works within this movie, as other aspects of the movie contain blurred lines (such as the issue of choice and obedience, as mentioned earlier), creating interest and tension in other ways.

Overall I enjoyed it, even though many aspects of fantasy stories are lost on me (I went through most of the movie wondering why it was called Pan’s Labyrinth. I understood the Labyrinth part, but who was Pan supposed to be? There is no Pan in this movie! Only to finally realize that ‘Pan’ is another word for a ‘faun,’ which was a main character in Ofelia’s fantasy. Sigh.). The story is compelling, and contains tension, and portrays females as strong heroes. If you have any inkling toward fantasy, or love someone who loves fantasy, I recommend seeing it.

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