Pan’s Labyrinth

It’s astonishing what levels of grossness and ew people will put up with, and indeed all the different varieties of yuk. For example: the gratuitous violence depicted in Pan’s Labyrinth was enough to make my sister’s partner burst into great racking sobs at the end, and we spent at least 5 minutes consoling her outside the Kino.

However in the restaurant afterwards, the conversation between the two pathologists turned to a case of genital herpes they saw that was so bad, and I quote, ‘she wouldn’t have even been able to wear any undies’. They then went onto describe the bucket of suppurating matter they had to later dissect. Add that to the severed hand with a huge tumour on both sides, and blackened fingers and the gangrenous buttock so foul she had to disinfect all her clothes and swab the entire room and would you believe her partner didn’t turn a hair. Just kept eating her tempura.


Like all good fairytales, it’s set in an old mill in a forest, but with a twist – the end of the Spanish Civil War. Ofelia arrives with her pregnant mother, for her new stepfather (the Captain) to witness the birth. Her stepfather is a cruel prick, and with her mother becoming more frail, Ofelia goes into the forest and discovers an overgrown labyrinth covered in ancient carvings. The forest is also teeming with a rebel militia that her stepfather is obsessed with wiping out in any way possible. Ofelia learns from the Faun of the labyrinth that she is in fact the Princess Moanna of the Underworld, and has several tasks to complete to reclaim her rightful throne yada yada yada.

Some bits didn’t quite ring true for me:

-My sister’s partner had a point. Although the central character is a little girl, this is far from a kid’s movie. There was a great deal of violence in Pan’s Labyrinth, and despite a lifetime of watching dark, disturbing and violent movies, I felt that some scenes detracted from the story. Basically everyone gets shot. Up close, with the sound turned up loud and with no expense spared in the blood spattering department. We get the point that the Captain was crackers, in fact more monstrous than some of the creatures in the labyrinth. We understand the central characters are in danger. What happened to some good old-fashioned menace?

-When Ofelia first meets the Faun, he basically explains the entire plot of the movie in one scene (and with some painful over-acting), most of which includes stuff like ‘you have three tasks to complete. You must do this. You must do this by the full moon’ etc. Why in fairy tales is there always ‘the dagger’, ‘the ring’, ‘the magical chalk’? What’s with all the random objects, scattered randomly and for random reasons? I’m sure many sniffy academics can put me straight on this one, but as Molesworth mite sa: It make no SENSE. Again, I would have liked a bit more exposition.

-On the note of the sound being turned up loud…it was turned up LOUD. The Captain’s leather gloves creaked, the papers shuffled, the mill groaned, the watch ticked, the Faun rumbled and the fairies chittered. The effect was pantomimish after the first scenes.

Other parts were thoroughly grouse and well worth the price of a ticket:

-The scene where Ofelia draws a door on her bedroom wall and meets the monster who keeps his eyes in his hands…shudder. Looking up at the old paintings of his deeds, we don’t need lengthy explanations. All we know is that she has to get the hell out of there, and not touch the food!

-I bloody loathe 3D animation as a rule, but the integration of animated characters, models and live action was quite seamless for me. Beautiful design, art direction, special effects. Love the baby mandrake root.

-After a slow start, the two stories worked really well together, and built up to a crescendo towards the end. Not too much pandering to the ‘magikle fairy wonder’ parts, and not too much delving into the history. More of a backdrop. Other great characters were the Doctor, and Mercedes the servant lass.

-Wikipedia tells me that the Captain was played by Sergi López, a man who has quite the pelt on him. Despite his chilling performance, he strides about each scene wearing jodhpurs, wife beater and braces, shaving, smoking, whipping off his glasses, rapping out orders…I really must investigate this chap further.

Overall: 3.5 stars

6 thoughts on “Pan’s Labyrinth

  1. I would like to see a spin-off fillum about the dude with his eyes in his palms. I sense a whole story there we don’t know about! That was a seriously fabulous monster, and totally agree about the understated menace of Ofelia entering his room and seeing the painted panels of his particularly hideous appetites. My favourite scene of the fillum by far! And your sister-in-law has fully recovered, btw.

  2. … anybody who quotes The Curse Of St.Custardsis OK by me, and I can see now why monster movies are made: to give pathologists a break from the horror of their work.Now can we get back to the gangrenous buttocks and the double tumoured hand please?I thought I was ‘not in the best health’ but compared to that lot I am blooming, so thanks for making me feel good.How the hell does a person ignore the first tumour and finally see a quack when a second one grows?How does the buttock go gang-green, and more urgently: Where is the sexmate of that herpes girl? make sure he isn’t out there spreading that one around like a disabled treen ….

  3. Oh Brownie the pathologists were at it again last night. Many things did I learn. but I will never understand why someone will let a tumour get so bad that it cuts off the blood flow to other vital parts!I reckon their kind could write a fascinating blogge, just by recounting their everyday lives. ALthough let it be said that when they are not dissecting gruesome horrors they are reading Chalet School books, the Sadler’s Wells series and debating whether Malory Towers is better than St Claire’s. Fact.

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