November 18, 2010

Captain Vidal stars as the Wicked Witch [review by starlight]

Pan’s Labyrinth is an incredibly brutal film that will make you feel the harshness of the world, particularly because of the contrast with a beautiful fantasy. There is a realist story intertwined with a fantastic one, where the world of the adults is dark, cruel and without any justice, and Ofelia, as a child, is able to access a just and beautiful world if she overcomes dangerous obstacles. Her part of the story is the Fairy Tale. Captain Vidal is the bad guy for both the realist of the Spanish Civil War and the fairy tale of Ofelia’s quest. His character really gets the idea across that there is no cosmic justice. Vidal represents the cold, irrational brutality of the world.

He is overly villainous, creating an aspect of the realist story that is bordering on the fantastic. Del Torro gives us a bleak, hopeless movie that will leave you feeling dark. In the realist portion of the story, Vidal is one-dimensionally evil with explicitly sinister motives – he’s a symbol for cruelty and lack of mercy in the world. One of the most memorable and gory scenes in the movie is when Vidal unjustly kills a man, and only afterwards checks the validity of the man’s story. His reaction upon finding out that it was true? He reprimands his soldiers: “Maybe you’ll learn to search these assholes properly before you come bothering me.” He shows no remorse. He’s unrealistically evil because he is an embodiment of injustice.
Vidal’s unrealistic cruelty and malevolence is more fitting to Ofelia’s fairy-tale.

The fairy-tale archetype that Vidal exemplifies can exert irrational cruelty in a fantasy story – wicked witches poison princesses and that’s just how it is. Just like the wicked witch, he has no hesitation or remorse for taking the life of Ofelia, just as cruel “fate” can senselessly take the life of a child. There is no meaning for the loss of an innocent.

Vidal commits acts of senseless, irrational and merciless violence. His character in both the realist story and the fairy tale embodies the idea of cosmic injustice. Tragedies occur without reason or meaning.


  1. the posturing (and admittedly rather irritating) little popinjayFebruary 4, 2011 at 10:32 AM

    I`ve always thought that "Pans Labyrinth" is a slightly over-rated film (its good as opposed to great) in fact i actually think "The Orphanage" is a marginally better film.

  2. I'd have to re-watch The Orphanage to comment completely, but what I love about Pan's Labyrinth is the way innocence clashes with harsh reality and brutality. The innocent part can seem incredibly naive, to an off-putting degree, but it is necessary to allow the fantasy to be destroyed by Vidal so completely. The contrast is really effective.

  3. the posturing (and admittedly rather irritating) little popinjayFebruary 4, 2011 at 5:38 PM

    I didn`t have a problem with the contrast between the fantasy and reality either its just with regards to the actual overall quality of the film i couldn`t understand why such a high number of reveiwers around the world hailed this film as "A Masterpiece".

  4. I'm sure they've given better reasons for hailing it as a masterpiece than not liking it "with regards to the overall quality". Can you be more specific about this? Guillermo del Toro pays great attention to the details of the special effects, the writing, the acting, and just about everything in all of his films. Additionally, Pan's Labyrinth has a lot more depth than The Orphanage - from what I can tell from the late-night watch I enjoyed over a year ago. I'd love to hear you back this up a bit.

    Not that it's a perfect rating system, but I'd like to add that on IMDB, Pan's Labyrinth has an excellent rating of 8.4, and while 7.7 is also very good by IMDB's standards, you can see there is quite a jump there. Pan's is hitting on to something.

  5. the posturing (and admittedly rather irritating) little popinjayFebruary 8, 2011 at 10:31 AM

    I wasn`t actually very entertained by Pans Labyrinth (or by The Orphanage for that matter) and i always find it strange and rather irritating (hey, thats part of my name !!!) that so-called film critics invariably bestow their praise onto art-house films rather than mainstream movies. For instance, if there were 50 film critics chosen at random and you said to them "what in your opinion is the greatest film ever made" not one of them would say Robocop, Avatar, 2012, Star Wars, etc. They would all instead say some ludicrous, pretentious, highbrow, elitist, snob oriented, pile of cinematic hogwash from Europe that no-one has ever seen (or even heard of for that matter). I wouldn`t put you into that catorgory of cinematic snobs because i know how much you love mainstream movies, its just that such a high number of film reveiwers seem to be frightened by the future so they run and hide in the 1930`s and 1940`s where its nice and cosy. Sorry that i didn`t address Pans Labyrinth specifically the way you wanted me to but i hope that other and perhaps easier to understand and straightforward example that i gave with regards to film critics attitudes to film in general will help you understand the point i`m trying to make.

  6. I see your point but aren't you doing the same thing? Saying the film from Europe that no one has ever seen or heard of is no good because it is NOT mainstream? I don't put movies into categories of quality based on how mainstream they are, whether it's to one end of the spectrum or the other. I would say that Avatar and 2012 were terrible movies, not because they were too mainstream, but because they did not stand up to my standard of quality. I wanted to like Avatar - it entertained me thoroughly, I was incredibly excited to see it, I loved the sci-fi aspects of it and I thought it had some serious POTENTIAL for character depth and plot, but it ended up going nowhere. How can you call a film high quality when it mirrors a disney movie from 15 years ago?

    At the same time I would call A New Hope one of the all-time best sci-fi films, and my favourite movie is a cult phenomenon. I'm not interested in how popular a movie is, I'm interested in how it holds up to my standards. Pan's Labyrinth was a piece of art, where 2012 was a piece of crap.

  7. the posturing (and admittedly rather irritating) little popinjayFebruary 8, 2011 at 7:51 PM

    Its odd that you said Avatar was terrible even though it entertained you, isn`t that a bizarre contradiction in terms ! ? ! ?, for 98% of movie goers around the world the most important thing by far is to be magnificently entertained by what they see on the screen, everything else is (strickly speaking) irrelavent, getting your moneys worth from a movie is all that counts. 2012 was indeed a piece of crap but it was one of the most breathtakingly entertaining piles of crap in the entire history of cinema simply because of its astonishingly incredible special effects and wondrous cinematic power, and that was all that mattered. now and again i might watch a film that is a little bit less mainstream and a little bit more thoughtful (like Pans Labyrinth) but invariably after watching such films its always nice to get back to the total and utter unpretentiousness of the ultra-mainstream Hollywood blockbuster special effects oriented product, somehow it always feels so re-assuring to remember that they`re out to make as much money as possible and they`re prepared to do anything to get it. Could you say a bit more about your "standard of quality" with regards to film in general and perhaps be more specific about why you seemingly weren`t able to appreciate the pure cinematic magnificence of 2012 because (as i said before) i thought that film was quite astounding.

  8. Maybe I am being pretentious. Let me tell you personally why I could never appreciate a movie like 2012 - not because "I have such good taste"', although I stand by my statement that it was a horrible movie, but because action flicks are just not my speed. Seriously. I fall asleep during chase scenes. I can't follow gun fights. If a movie's conflict is resolved in a sword fight, I will walk out of the theatre with no clue as to what just happened. Special effects have no power over me. I watched Indianna Jones for the first time ever in my university years with my boyfriend and a few bottles of wine. Loved the plot, loved the mystery, felt the effects of the red wine as I snoozed through every action scene.

  9. the posturing (and admittedly rather irritating) little popinjayFebruary 9, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    Starlight, it might be difficult for you to relate to my next point (specifically because you said you dont like special effects and action in movies) but i`d really enjoy hearing what you think. I think that only special effects movies are worth seeing in a cinema because everything else (love stories, dramas, gritty realism, etc) looks exactly the same on T.V. as it does on a cinema screen, only the special effects extravaganzas (no matter how appalling they are story-wise) give the audience that vitally important commodity known as "CINEMATIC MAGNIFICENCE, SPECTACLE, AND INCREDIBLE VISUAL GRANDEUR" (a cinematic roller-coaster ride, if you will) a commodity that non- special effects movies most certainly DO NOT provide. Like i said, i`d really like to hear your thoughts on this specific point.

  10. otis rampaging heterosexualityMarch 17, 2011 at 11:37 AM

    Starlight (dreamgirl), its 6 weeks now and i`m still waiting for your reply and opinion on this very important point ? ! ? !.