Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Pan's Labyrinth

Pan's Labyrinth was another DVD that sat on my shelf for a long time before we finally got round to watching it. I had been forewarned from reviews in newspapers and from friends that it contained some fairly disturbing images and though it may seem a strange thing coming from a writer of horror fiction, I am pretty squeamish.

In fact I always feel a bit of a fraud when I am introduced as a horror writer. Horror suggests gore to me, and though there is gore in my books (and I do love that word) I tend not to dwell on it. It is certainly never the point for me. Gore doesn't interest me as a destination.

Neither, to be fair, is gore the main ingredient of Pan's Labyrinth. It is a movie that deals with horror, but there is so much more going on. It is a fairy story set against the real horrors of the Spanish Civil War and like many fairy stories and myths, it has a child as the protagonist.

There are obvious similarities with Alice in Wonderland but it is much more grim - and Grimm. It also has more than a touch of the Persephone myth. Ofelia, the main character is beset by dangers wherever she goes, in our world, and the strange underworld she visits. As with his Hellboy movies, you get the impression that del Toro has a soft spot for monsters.

As for human beings - that's a different matter.

Pan's Labyrinth does have shocking moments of violence but it is actually no more violent than many folk tales (in the original form) or myths. If you were to film Hansel and Gretel or Cinderella as they were originally told no child would be allowed to see them.

I find Guillermo del Toro's inventiveness very inspiring. His Hellboy movies are great and he is to direct The Hobbit for Peter Jackson soon I gather. I also read that he is going to be involved in movies of both Frankenstein and Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde.

There is nothing particular in Pan's Labyrinth that is directly relevant to my work as a writer. But I remember that I just had a feeling when I had finished watching it that I needed to up my game.

It was - like all good art - a kind of call to arms.


  1. Hi Chris
    I loved Pan's Labyrinth... although yes there are really terrible scenes (I remember that one is within the first ten minutes of the film, and I had to hide my eyes), it seems that the worst violence is that perpetrated by humans... I am also ashamed to say that I had no idea of the Franco regime, so it was also an education of sorts for me. What I loved most about the film were the elements of magic and the character design. Pan himself was wonderful, sort of camp and creepy at the same time.
    Best wishes

  2. It is a brilliant movie and one that often comes back to me. The violence is shocking, it's true and I had my teeth clenched so firmly I thought my jaw was going to snap. But magical film making.