Musings of a phenomenologist

Science, psychiatry and random musings

Last of the old stuff!

Posted by soveda on September 8, 2008

When is fantasy not fantasy?

As I continue to make my way through my collection of films I really should have watched before now I have reaches Pan’s Labyrinth (El labirinto del fauno).
Having managed to keep myself Spoiler free I wasn’t expecting the violence to be as graphic or as early in the film as it was. As it turns out the interplay between the “fantastic” and the “real world” was done in a more subtle and beautiful way than I could have hoped! I have been a fan of Del Toro’s directing style since Chronos and I think he reached the pinacle of his abilities with Labirinto.
Quick review: fabulous film but is it a fantasy film?
OK so since watching the film I have been reading people’s views on various sites and it seems that the largest bone of contention is: Is the fantastic real or phantasy (please excuse the pun)?
Broadly I don’t think it matters, the emotional resonance in the film is there whether or not the fantastic elements are true or in Ofelia’s imagination because we are invited to see her through the eyes of Mercedes who tries to save Ofelia from the evils of “el capitan”.
The film itself was championed by the genre press and “sold” as fantasy.
The mainstream also seemed to be largely positive towards the film and it seems to be placed firmly in the field of “fantasy” films. Now to my eyes “fantasy” or “science fiction” are often ways of dismissing difficult subjects as light and irrelevant. An example of the opposite (i.e.: scifi/fantasy which is denied) is “children of men”- a post apocalyptic fantasy!
To me the most powerful part of the film is that the fantasy isn’t fluffy and light but in fact has a dark and threatening sense to it. Despite this Ofelia prefers her fantasy life to the reality of life under Franco. The juxtaposition of the casual brutality of the fascists and the lack of value that life holds (even the life of a child) with the value Ofelia puts on her brother’s life despite his having caused their mother to die needs no further embelishment.
I will leave things there for the moment. More when I catch up with further films.

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One Response to “Last of the old stuff!”

  1. Monk said

    Del Toro is supposed to be involved in a movie of the Marvel comics character Doctor Strange. I wasn’t interested in the movie til I heard that!

    The guy is who I think of whenever I hear the word “auteur”

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