Friday, August 03, 2007

Magically real

Film: El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth)
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Doug Jones, Ariadna Gil, Álex Angulo

You will be pleasantly surprised to see a copy of the Spanish film El Laberinto del Fauno at your next-door DVD parlour. You have heard about the film. It has garnered three Oscars this year. Critics have termed it one of the best films released last year. But you really did not expect to see it. Because the film is in Spanish.
The DVD you will borrow has English subtitles, so you don’t need to worry. And again, the film is so visually enchanting that you would probably not worry about the language at all.
Pan’s Labyrinth, as the film is called in English, opens like a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel, where the line between imagination and reality begins to blur and at the end, you are asked to choose what you want to believe, the grim realities of life or the possibilities that there is something else beyond our limited sense of vision.
There’s a fairy tale of Princess Moana, daughter of the King of the Underworld. She was so fascinated by the talks of the outside world that one day she left her underworld kingdom. Here, affected by miseries of the world, she died. But her father, the king, believed that her soul was still alive and she would return one day.
Cut to the current scenario, this is Franco’s Spain of 1944. He has own the war, yet rebel forces are still holding resistance. We meet captain Vidal, a proud fascist general who is fighting a guerilla resistance somewhere in a remote village. He is joined by his pregnant wife Carmen and her daughter from previous marriage, Ofelia. Soon the two worlds collide, Ofelia’s world of fairy tale and Vidal’s world of fascism.
Ofelia soon discovers a large insect who eventually leads her to the faun (the Pan, a half-man, half-goat creature) in his labyrinth. The faun succeeds in convincing Ofelia that she’s actually Princess Moana of the fairy tale and that her real father is waiting for her in the underworld, and to go there she has to perform three tasks.
Here begins a nail-biting thriller, as Ofelia struggles with her fantastic, out-of-the-world tasks, while the rebel group begins to gather force, Carmen struggles with her pregnancy and ill heath and Captain Vidal with his last hope, to be the father of his son.
As Ofelia grapples to understand the reality of her fantasy world, her mother admonishes her saying that she should stop reading fairy tales, and that the harsh realities of the world is an altogether different thing. But you question whether Ofelia’s world is less real than that of Carmen’s, and as the film ends this is the question you are faced with: What do you believe and how much?
Spanish director Guillermo del Toro who directed Blade II and Hellboy before is tour-de-force, and he gives us a flawless film in every department, from acting (Ivana Baquero as Ofelia is heartbreakingly innocent) to photography to makeup (the captain with a slit face!). No wonder the film piped Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto in the Oscars to win the awards in art direction, cinematography and makeup.
At the end of the day, you can’t slot the film in a genre and here lies its endearing appeal. You don’t get to see a film like this often.

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