05 February 2007

El laberinto del fauno

It's movie critique time! Yesterday I went and watched a Spanish film, El laberinto del fauno (released in English as Pan's Labyrinth), directed by Guillermo del Toro (the guy who directed Blade II and Hellboy, among others).

(By the way, if you're in Rosario and you want to see a movie at the Showcase cinemas in the Alto Rosario shopping mall, consider the time and day, and be there one hour in advance. The ticket desk is slow and understaffed, and brand-new films are assigned to only one projecting room, which naturally fills up quickly. The projection times tend to be awfully distributed during the day, too. I have other complaints to nag about; be patient.)

My original intention was watching Babel, which has just been released here. I have no idea what it's about yet, so don't tell me, but the trailers seemed interesting. But the room was almost full, so me and my friends decided to wait and watch El laberinto… one hour later. Since Alto Rosario is located in the middle of nowhere and it was beginning to rain, we had no choice but to sit down in one of the bars inside the mall.

(Shopping malls are bubbles of artificial shiny wealth filled with people wandering glossy-eyed among overpriced merchandise and avidly eating junk food with their children. Did I already mention I hate them?)

El laberinto del fauno is about (don't worry, no major spoilers) a little girl's story during the Fascist-Republican struggle after the Spanish Civil War, as her pregnant mother takes her along to live with her new husband, a Francoist military, in a countryside camp. Little Ofelia loves fairy tales and believes in them. She's contacted by a faun, who serves as a messenger of the Fairy King, her real father. The faun gives her instructions so as to fulfill her destiny as a princess. In the "real" world, her cruel stepfather seeks to destroy the Communist resistance in the woods and cares for his wife only as a vessel for his unborn son, who'll carry his name. The two stories are joined by a coincidence of place and time (if there's a deeper relationship in the plot, it's so well hidden I didn't notice), but they mingle well and the result is spectacular without resorting to excessive special effects, sentimentalism, or uncalled-for dramatic dialogue (i.e. the Hollywood standard). The actors are strong, their characters well-defined, the plot firm and easy to follow.

The movie is rated PG13 (or rather its equivalent). There are more than a few graphic scenes of physical violence (beating, torture, killing) and purposefully unsubtle instances of psychological violence. Regrettably, it's nothing a 13-year-old in a "normal" environment in today's society hasn't probably witnessed before. These scenes are well-placed, mainly underscoring the inhuman character of the Francoist commander and of war in general. Some of the "fairy world" scenes are rather creepy as well.

A number of truly dumb parents took their kids (ages 8 to 12, I reckoned) to the movie. Now, it's a terrible thing that movie theaters in Argentina don't exercise any sort of control over who's allowed to see what, but ultimately it's the parents' responsibility not to expose a 10-year-old to such things as graphic depictions of the results of a torture session. Besides that, don't you morons read the movie summary or a review before you choose to watch it? How do you choose? Are you so stupid you see a funny-looking goat-faced monster in the movie poster and you automatically assume it's a kids' movie? I hope you witless parents at least had the sense to leave when the blood started.

El laberinto… finished rather late, which was good since the rain had stopped. All in all the movie was very well done and I don't regret I had to substitute it for Babel..., which I'm going to watch during the week, I guess. I'll tell about it then.

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