Saturday, January 20, 2007

Guillermo del Toro's new film Pan's Labyrinth is diabolical on all the right levels.

The horrific violence necessary to tell this tale, set partly in Franco's Spain circa 1944, hits a pitch-perfect appropriateness: never too gratuitous, but still stark and bold and unrelenting.

With its smart dual storyline, it is both a fairy tale and not a fairy tale simultaneously. It is also simultaneously a political movie and not a political movie. Hard to articulate coherently, but trust me, he accomplishes this feat splendidly.

Sequence after sequence, the characters continually compliment the captivating imagery and camerawork. I found myself completely drawn into its world from the opening image: a beautiful shot of a dying little girl, which unravels the story backwards and bookends nicely at the end of the picture.

I think part of the reason nearly every critic on earth is in agreement over the brilliance of this film is that there are no clich├ęs here. Imagination takes the foreground. Also, the script is masterfully written: the "real" world and the "magical" word are equally as believable, and plot clues are presented in fine Chekhovian fashion, like guns placed on the mantle in the opening act that eventually fire in the finale.

Go and see this movie. It is dark and haunting and sublime.