The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Pan’s Labyrinth: a VERY Adult “Children’s” Movie

Written by: Rob Van Winkle, CC2K Staff Writer

ImageHearing that it was a favorite for the 2007 Oscar in foreign language, Pan’s Labyrinth was high atop my list of movie’s I wanted to see in the theatre.  A young girl (Ofelia) enters a world of dominance and fear in Spain, 1944.  With her mother pregnant with Captain Vidal’s child, she seeks to solve the fairy tale mystery of her ancestry and retake her place next to her real father as a princess.  Pan’s Labyrinth, written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, is a chilling allegory of the atrocities of World War II.  I might not be appropriate for children, but it is moving for adults.

The first I thought about upon leaving the theatre was the exceptional use of language in the film.  Although the idea of a non-Spanish speaking American who had to read subtitles could still be affected by the dialogue sounds like an oxymoron; however, it is amazingly true.  The dichotomy of how each character spoke was wonderful.  From Mercedes and her brother Pedro’s vowel oriented loving language, to the Faun’s (Pan) strict use of consonants the put fear in the eyes of Ofelia, to even making him sound more “nature-oriented” (as he claims to be the very earth itself).  It is the language that carries the acting in this film.  Otherwise, the acting is not necessarily strong, but it is not terribly bad either.  This is one of those films where you do not need a Meryl Streep or Paul Newman to pull off these complex roles.  The acting is led by Sergi López who plays a frightening Captain Vidal, and yet does not jump into my mind when I think of the greatest villains of all time.  It is not bad acting and it is not stand out either, but it did not need to be.  It is more of an ensemble movie because the film is not structured on what people say, but what people do and see.    

Visually this film is absolutely amazing to watch from start to finish.  The color palate chosen reflects the era so well to show its dark and dreary side.  Yet places like Ofelia’s father’s kingdom and inside the fig tree are so illuminated with many bright and vibrant colors.  The effects of creating Pan, the toad, the creature without eyes, and the fairies and the creature that uses its own hands for eyes, are not only original, but quite amazing and in great detail.  The theater I watched it in had some glitches, but that is hardly the fault of the film.  Regardless of a bad projector, the film is beautifully made as if it were an old Grimm fairy tale book itself.    

Although the film was slow at some parts, it did not give me any problems towards my enjoyment of it.  However, one problem I had is with the idea of Ofelia’s kingdom, to which she is so desperately fighting to return.  Without trying to ruin the movie for those who haven't seen it, it reminded me about another film (ironically centralized around a “Pan”).  Obviously, in this case, it is a much bigger sacrifice than what seemed to be natural in the other movie.  But again, this is a film giving an allegory of a fantasy world that is so beaten over your head with a stick.  Would it have hurt if it was an actual made-up kingdom (oxymoron, not-intentional).  Probably not: and it would have made it a little more unique.  It is not like this World War II film is based on a true story (like something like Life is Beautiful), so why it have to have an ending based in reality?  Nevertheless, the impact of a child’s mind and what affect a war can have on it was truly chilling and amazing.


When I was in college, I had a wonderful film teacher.  He was a little overly cynical and wishing film was still made in the 70s, but a lover of Hitchcock, which is of course just alright with me.  He taught me a system of rating a film.  It, if answered honestly, detaches a person from favoritism and, in my mind, truly breaks down a film.  There are six categories: originality, depth, ability to entertain, ability to move, acting, and visualization.  What else is there to judge a film on?  Directing?  Design?  That falls into the category of Visualization and Depth?  Writing?  Originality and Depth.  Then after seeing a film, rate each section from A+ down to F, on how you truly saw it in the film.  What impressed you?  What didn’t?  Once complete give every grade a number where an A+ = 12, and everything down respectively (A = 11, A- = 10, etc….).  Add all six numbers up and divide by six (for the categories).  You now should have a number between 0 and 12. What grade does that number equate to?  That grade is your grade for the film.

My favorite movie of all time (please don’t laugh) is Cool Runnings, but believe it or not is a C+.  Yet, Gone with the Wind, a film I would like to see burnt (no pun intended) and never be seen ever again, is a B+.  Although it can be cruel to movies that you truly love, or hate, ratings are different for different people, and I find that this is the most impartial and more detailed than say “thumbs up or down”.  So here’s my rating for Pan’s Labyrinth.

Originality A- (10)
Depth A- (10)
Ability to Entertain B (8)
Ability to Move A-  (10)
Acting B+ (9)
Visualization A (11)

Total: 58

Final Rating:  B+