4.5, Latin America/Spain

Pan’s Labyrinth

2006 / Guillermo del Toro > The combination of fantasy and violence is something that’s always fascinated me because at the core of most fairy tales is a sense of naivety that is both wondrous and disagreeable. Emotions toward the latter comes outward mostly because we realize that stories are an escape, and that fairy tales don’t really happen without hard work (i.e., don’t exist). In film, we simply take a ride in our minds that comes hurling back to square one once the end credits roll.

With Pan’s Labyrinth, del Toro has given respect to the reality of time and space while still proceeding with his story of magic. The parallelism of good vs. evil along with the convex nature of Ofelia’s fate are the cornerstones of the film’s effectiveness. And since the idea of the happy ending is a modern one (and not one that’s fair or objective to the viewer’s emotions), I believe del Toro’s choice of conclusion judiciously stops short of manipulating the viewer and the viewer’s after-film hopes.

I’m neither perturbed nor surprised that The Lives of Others beat out Pan’s Labyrinth for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Both are beautifully crafted, but the latter’s taste in violence is not fit for all. That being said, only The Last King of Scotland and Memories of Matsuko compete with this as my personal favorite films of 2006.