Monday, April 23, 2007

Again with the fantasy thing...

In my last post I talked about the show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and how it seems that science fiction and fantasy is rarely taken seriously in America. Quite frankly I'm shocked that Lord of the Rings won the 2003 Oscar for Best Picture. Anyway, I was just thinking about this subject again after seeing the film Pan's Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno) for the second time. This film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Lanugage Film, but lost out to the German feature The Lives of Others. So I haven't seen The Lives of Others, and I probably should before I go and rant about any injustice. But after seeing Pan's Labyrinth two times in the theatre, I have to say that I just cannot imagine another film being better than this one. Of all the films I have seen in the past few years -- foreign language and English language included -- this one tops them all. It was incredible. The cinematography, the storyline, the acting, the score, everything was beyond compare. It really says something about a film when you leave the theater for the second time feeling just as touched and exhilarated as you felt the first time.

My feeling is that a fantasy film just does not have as good of a chance against a regular old drama about a war or something like that. Fantasy is equated with children and that is not something that can be taken as seriously. Unless it is a film done by some big Hollywood name, it probably won't get the recognition it deserves. Many adults are afraid to appreciate or enjoy fantasy films because they think it makes them seem less mature. I think that says something about the imaginations and creative brains of "grown ups." As I mentioned in my last post, fantasy often serves as a metaphor or an allegory for real situations or issues. Most of us are obsessed with realism -- we don't like having this artistic dimension put onto something. But isn't it more exciting and more challenging to see the world through different eyes?

The plot of Pan's Labyrinth is a little girl named Ofelia and her mother move to the rural army base of her stepfather, who is a sadistic military Captain for the Spanish Army. This takes place in 1944 in Spain, when Franco is in power. Out in the woods a group of revolutionaries is fighting against the fascist dictatorship. In the meantime, Ofelia tries to escape into her fairytales. One night she wanders into a labyrinth that is on the outskirts of the army base. There she meets the faun, who tells her that she is really the reincarnated daughter of the King of the Underworld. She must complete three tasks to prove that she has not become too "mortal." As Ofelia completes the tasks, there is a lot of other stuff going on with the army and guerilla fighters, etc. Ofelia's fantastical world serves as a metaphor for the world that she has seen disappear. It is her way of surviving the terrible and gruesome reality that surrounds her.

I would obviously recommend that everyone go and see this movie. As a warning, it is pretty tragic and there is also a lot of violence. And it is rated R. It's promotes as a "fairytale for adults", so don't let your little kids watch it!

Here is the trailer for the film and also the beginning sequence:

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