Home > Arts & Entertainment, Reviews > Review of El Laberinto del Fauno

Review of El Laberinto del Fauno

Or Pan’s Labyrinth, in English, Yonguk, ingles, etc.

By way of finding out whether this film was in English, I asked the girl at the cinema desk, ‘Yongo?’ and I’m pretty sure she didn’t say ‘Anio’ (‘No’), so I went ahead and bought a ticket. The film then turned out to be Spanish with Korean subtitles. Apart from ‘si senor’, ‘el capitan’, ‘ola’, ‘la luna’, ‘tres dias’, ‘antibiotic’ and ‘absolutamente nada’ I didn’t understand any of the dialogue.

Nevertheless, I sat through it and found it quite a rewarding experience. In the absence of comprehesible dialogue there’s quite a lot you can pick about the plot and the characters from purely visual cues. The film is set in 1944 in Spain and concerns a girl, Ophelia, living in the house of a Spanish army captain (who is either father, step-father or something). One half of the story concerns the resistance fighters in the nearby hills and their struggle with the fascistas. The other follows the girl as she discovers a dark, fairy-tale otherworld.

The fact that this film has been made (and screened in Korea) is certainly due to the popularity of fantasy and the success of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter et al, but this is one of the darkest and most disturbing movie fantasies I’ve seen. The main fantastical character is a faun whose aspect is a far cry from Mr Tumnus; he’s made of wood and covered in gnarly bark, he creaks when he moves and he has a very impressive pair of horns – the overall effect is distinctly demonic. One scene involves Ophelia stealing a root-foetus (because her mother is having a fraught pregnancy) from this humanoid being that looks like something out of a Marilyn Manson video.

Although there were a few kids in the auditorium, this is definitely not a film for children. There is a lot of graphic violence – people being tortured, shot point-blank in the head; the captain is given half a Chelsea smile then sews up his gaping cheek himself.

Despite its fantasy elements, the film is still rooted in physical and emotional reality, and I found it quite moving at times. The special effects are very good and they don’t overpower the other aspects of the movie. So even though I didn’t understand the language, I’m glad I saw this film … I would have liked to have had English subtitles, though.

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  1. Dave G (T Party)
    5 December 2006 at 1:58 pm

    Hi Sean,
    I thought this was a fine film, and agree with you, this is a very adult fairy tale (though not of course adult in ‘that’ way). I too thought it was a very moving story in places, particularly the story of Mercedes – the captain’s female servant. I think you have picked up most of the significant elements of the story, the captain is Ofelia’s step-father, the baby her half-brother.
    Yes, some very gruesome moments in the film, the faun is intimnidating, the baby-eater pretty horrific, a thing of nightmares.
    One of my idiosyncratic habits is to watch film with the sound down and music playing. Somehow the music fits itself to the story, no doubt my brain somehow shoe-horning it all together to make a whole. I don’t think you missed out on too much without the dialogue, the film – as cinema should be – is very visual and tells the story through pictures assisted by words, not the other way round (which is TV)

  2. 7 December 2006 at 8:25 am

    Thanks, Dave. At the start of the film I was thinking, ‘Oh, bollocks,’ but by the end I was pleasantly surprised by how rewarding it had been – although something about the ending didn’t quite work for me.

    I haven’t been keeping up with the T-Party goings-on, I’m afraid. For a while I didn’t have time to check the e-mail account I use for the T-Party General group and it’s now probably got about a million messages in it.

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