Pan’s Labyrinth is from the visionary and imaginative mind of writer and director Guillermo del Toro. This dark fantasy film is widely considered a masterpiece in bringing magical realism to the big screen. Magical realism is loosely defined as adding fantastical or mythical elements into a story’s narrative when its setting is otherwise highly realistic fiction. Pan’s Labyrinth takes place in Francoist Spain in 1944. This was a dark and oppressive time period for common people living under fascism. The realistic setting is in contrast to the magic and wonder our protagonist experiences.
Ofeilia, played by Ivana Baquero, is an eleven-year-old girl who is traveling to the Spanish countryside with her mother Carmen (Airadna Gil) who is with child. They are going to live with Ofeilia’s stepfather Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez). Captain Vidal is a vile and cruel man dedicated to the fascist cause of exterminating any resistance to the Spanish regime.
One night, Ofeilia discovers a fairy that leads her through an underground labyrinth, where she meets a mysterious goat-like forest creature called a Faun. He reveals to her that she may be a long lost princess of the underworld, but to return and be with her real family, she must go on a magical quest to prove her worth. The quest is fraught with danger as she sneaks out of her house each night to complete the tasks, each one becoming stranger and more perilous than the next.
Pan’s Labyrinth is best described as a fairy tale for adults, as some of the scenes and real world problems are too intense for young children. The film itself is in Spanish, but the subtitles are done quite well and English speakers won’t feel as if they’re having to try and keep up. Pan’s Labyrinth was highly regarded by many to be one of the best films of 2006 and still holds a score on the website Rotten tomatoes of 95% with its critic’s consensus stating: “Pan’s Labyrinth is Alice in Wonderland for grown-ups, with the horrors of both reality and fantasy blended together into an extraordinary, spellbinding fable.” The film would go on to win three Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Best Makeup.
Pan’s Labyrinth is available at the Union University Library.
* This film is rated R for some graphic violence and some language.*
This year marks the tenth anniversary of Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster film The Dark Knight. As far as films featuring Batman go, this is by far the most dramatic, thought-provoking, and epic in scale. The film boasts an all-star cast of Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman, sparring off against his greatest nemesis, The Joker, played by the late Heath Ledger. Ledger’s performance in this role would earn him a posthumous Oscar for best supporting actor.
The film’s supporting cast contribute in no small part to the memorable depths of this film. Gary Oldman portrays Jim Gordon, one of the few remaining honest and incorruptible cops left in Gotham. Gordon is followed by newly elected District Attorney Harvey Dent played by Aaron Eckhart. The two seek to battle crime legally and prove the system can work to defeat the criminals of Gotham. The cast continues with Michael Caine reprising his role as Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s stoic butler and father figure. The film’s lead actress is that of Maggie Gyllenhaal, who plays Rachel Dawes, Bruce’s childhood friend and romantic interest of both Wayne and Dent.
The film is filled with such familiar and iconic themes that make it so memorable to audiences that it will inevitably transcend time and culture. Aside from the classic good vs. evil encounter, the film’s themes run much deeper embodied by our lead characters. We see a tragic hero in that of Bruce Wayne as he forgoes his own happiness and dreams in order to become a symbol of hope and justice for the citizens of Gotham. Contrast that with one of the most iconic villains to ever appear on film: The Joker. This character is deeply frightening as his motivation is so devilishly simple in that his only desire is to unleash chaos on the people of Gotham. The Joker is disgusted by the world with its rules, laws, and order. He sees the world and the people in it as a bad joke. Due to this mentality he has sensed morphed himself into a twisted and disturbing parody of how he views humanity. His aim is to terrify and corrupt the people of Gotham. What makes his motives even more insidious is the fact that he isn’t interested in coming out on top or winning; his only goal is to ensure that everyone loses. As Alfred puts it in his grim take on the Joker: “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
This film features a dynamic clash between Order & Chaos, and how far good people will compromise their morals and ethics before they become the very thing they sought to overcome. The Dark Knight is simply a masterpiece- not only as an action-packed thrill ride, but the themes it expresses through its characters and setting will no doubt be studied and praised for years to come. If you’re watching this film for the first time I’d advise you to hold on tight because it is going be a bumpy ride. If you are giving this a second go, try and appreciate the film’s subtleties.
*Note: this film is Rated PG-13 and features some language, intense action, and some frightening scenes. *
**You can check out The Dark Knight trilogy from the library.**