Good God. I saw Pan's Labyrinth tonight, having wanted to for some time, and I have to say I'm torn. On the one hand, it's a stunningly filmed, deeply moving, and even (in the end) deeply moral experience. In many ways, it was easily one of the best movies I saw in the past year, considering a "movie year" one that spans from Oscars to Oscars. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure it is the most brutal viewing experience I've ever had. I will admit that the movie caught me at a vulnerable time, but friends had tried to prepare me for more violence than the preview had suggested.
They didn't prepare me enough.
It's impossible to summarize things without giving too much away, so I won't. But if you're uncomfortable with realistic violence -- both emotional and physical -- committed by humans against humans, I strongly urge you to watch this in the comfort of your own home when it's released on DVD. There were a handful of times when I felt that I would have to leave the theater.
A good deal of that violence feels gratuitous, and for that I have to take points away from the project. But the horror also accrues in a way that is put to use for one of the more devastating climactic sequences that I can remember. I believe it's the first time I've ever left a movie in need of a drink, to fend off the existential nausea. The film has enough strengths that it doesn't deserve such an off-putting, unnerving encapsulation, but it's the truth. The friend who was with me could testify -- the only humorous moments all night came when he looked at me during certain scenes and laughed at the way I was shrinking from the screen.
The story has clear -- in my mind -- religious connotations (ethical connotations, at least), but considering another, very long post that I'm working on, I don't have the energy to get into that. If you want to discuss it over a drink sometime, I'm more than game. You know where to find me. Well, most of you know where to find me.
I'm supposed to see The Lives of Others with another friend tomorrow night, and while that looks like a very serious effort, I'm convinced it will seem like Meet the Parents compared to tonight's fare.