Talk about harsh beauty -- I turned my head away a couple times, something I never did even in the bloodiest, most wrenching moments of The Passion of the Christ, which is more violent than Pan's Labyrinth, but with redemption always in view as a result of the violence. The redemption in PL isn't visible until the very end; up until then, the sadistic captain's nonchalant, out-right murders, and his emotional brutality toward his wife and stepdaughter, present such a bleak picture that I wondered how the woman could ever have been induced to marry him, or how his men could display any loyalty other than that motivated by fear.
On the other hand, the subterranean "fairy land," though as dark in its own way as the world above, is mysterious and intriguing. I was an imaginative child, always creating my own universes, some of them scary, some of them comforting, almost all of them full of advenutre. Like Ofelia and her brother, as children I and my brother stood in the presence of those who wanted to kill us. I viewed this story with no expectations, and ended up identifying with it more than I could have anticipated.
In the end, Ofelia's sacrifice -- and it is a true sacrifice, because she makes a conscious decision to give up something for the good of another -- lifts the story from darkness. However, though it centers around a child, this film is not for children.
* * *
Another movie I'm behind the times in viewing is The Number 23.
I could have waited a little longer.
I won't bother with too much reportage of my opinion. Suffice to say that the film itself, as well as the comments (in the special features) by the actors, producer, and director are saddening, because they reveal people searching for structure and meaning in superstition and numerology, while in the movie prayer and belief in God are called "magical thinking," the resorts of humans too weak to find strength in themselves and in common sense.
It's the weak who feel compelled to talk big, act more confident than they are, never ask for help, exert power or control over others.
It's only the strong who can admit they are weak.