Ian Fastert’s review published on Letterboxd:
Figuring out how other people think is something that fascinates me to no end. Everyone is just so unique, so different, that seeing how differently people can interpret some things is something that can leave you with enough information to think about for months! I just think it's amazing people can be the way they are, these deep and endlessly interesting individuals that are all full of all this...stuff. Emotional stuff, creative stuff, question stuff, we all have all this stuff in our heads, and to even be able to get to know a little bit about someone and all the crazy stuff they've got in there is a gift.
That's part of why I love movies; at their best, they are a tunnel into the mind of their creators and the world they live in. It's less escapism, and more teleportation.
Sometimes this manifests in a movie literally about tearing down who the filmmaker is (think Her); sometimes, it's a director using film to talk about topics they feel passionately about (think Moonlight); maybe they're telling a story that fascinates them, or just want you to FEEL. What filmmakers can do to you through film can be awe-inspiring, but even more impressive is how they can use it to bring you inside them. Because while a movie can be a very personal experience for you to watch, that can't even hold a candle to all the effort and time put into creating that experience for you.
Anyway, that was all just an interlude into why I adore Guillermo Del Toro and Pan's Labyrinth so much; all of his movies, but most notably this one, not only show you what's going on inside his head, they teleport you into the entire WORLD he's created in there. This is a man full of so many different worlds, worlds that may be connected by his interests but offer so many different things that they have never gotten stale. This man not only creates locations, but histories; the mythology each of his creations receives astounds me; it feels fitting to call him the J.R Tolkien of cinema, with the way he's able to create something so fantastical and make it all make total sense. Pan's Labyrinth might be the most in depth with the creation of this lore, but it also adds the most painful twist to it; what if it's not real? What if these fantastical stories created to help people escape from the real world are just that?
Del Toro is such an optimistic director in general; all his films feel have this child-like joy and optimism to them, even these darker Spanish Civil War ones (Devil's Backbone happens to be one of the strongest examples of this optimistic view), so for this one to be so somber by the end of it all makes it even more heartbreaking. It feels like you're watching Guillermo question himself and his whole outlook on life.
I've watched Pan's Labyrinth about 4 times now, and it has hardly lost the impact I felt when I watched it for the first time a little over a year ago; I was put into a funk for 2 days, I didn't know what to do with myself, and I was just...overwhelmed by it all, overwhelmed that I had seen this creator, this artist I admired at his weakest, someone I looked up to, someone who I thought was so sure of himself and his place in this world. As someone who just feels lost with himself way too often, seeing this happen to one of my guiding lights was scary at first. Would this feeling ever go away? Will I ever feel confident that what I'm doing matters? After that time to think about it though, I realized that life really is just tough without anyone trying to make other people happy, and that even a complete failure in attempting to break up the soul-crushing events of reality is still an attempt.
I'm gonna keep attempting. Maybe someone will end up finding me and the stuff I have in my head interesting, who knows. But someone has to appreciate the attempt, right? I think we all have at least someone who wants to know about all of our stuff, our ideas, our world. So here's to you, someone. You're why I try.