Partnering with Tearfund

Pan's Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno)

Starring: Some people who speak Spanish.

Rated: 15

Story: In 1944, in Franco's Spain, a girl named Ofelia and her family move to the country to be near her psychopathic stepfather. He is an army officer and is conducting a ruthless campaign against Communist rebels. Surrounded by human evil, she finds herself drawn into a dark, fantastical world where a sinister faun sets her three tasks in order to reclaim her throne as a princess of an underworld kingdom.

Comments: At this point, you're probably thinking this is one of those kerrr-azeee foreign arts films. Don't worry, though - it doesn't feature psychedelic giraffe-people, moody black-and-white shots of Death, Gerard Depardieu or a heartfelt conversation with an orange. The effects and cinematography are fantastic and the production values are as high as any Hollywood movie. The only real problem is that it's a bit in Spanish. Actually, it's a lot in Spanish. Oh, all right, it's all in Spanish.

Don't be put off, though.

I have to say that when I put this on my LOVEFiLM rental list, I didn't read the synopsis too closely. I looked at the picture, read the title and had a flashback to David Bowie surrounded by muppets. Truth be told, though, this isn't a fantasy film book-ended by a couple of real-life segments; it's a war-time drama occasionally interspersed with a dark faerie tale. It's more Captain Corelli than The Lord of the Rings but with an oppressive atmosphere and graphic, bloody violence.

Personally I would have preferred a greater emphasis on the fantasy side of things but the film is absorbing nonetheless and the pacing is superb. The cast all do an excellent job (as far as I can tell). The English translation for the subtitles is decent and certainly better than the misleading title suggests. Fortunately, most of the more visually impressive moments don't have much dialogue, allowing concentration on the action.

Conclusion: Excellent and much less of an effort to watch than it sounds.

Explosions: A couple.
Amputations: One.
Self-sutured stitches: I couldn't watch.
People shot in the head: Rather more than you'd imagine.
Spanish: Lots.
Muppets: None.

Rating: 4/5.

No comments: