thelistislife42’s review published on Letterboxd:
I have yet to return the DVD from watching this the first time just over a week ago. After a rewatch, maybe I can finally put my adoration for it into words. So here goes nothing:
So much of this film is pure genius. Both storylines, one of a fantasy realm and one of a post-civil-war Spain, are intertwined with brilliance, and each help to create the deeply impactful and transcendent experience this film provides. At its most basic, this film is many things: creative, tragic, and beautiful, to name a few. However, perhaps most importantly, it is disobedient. I know people have said it before, but the importance of disobedience is an integral theme here. The story tells of those who are disobedient. Disobedience in defying a military man who belittles his wife, kills innocent people, and uses his son as a means to further his horrible name. Disobedience in resistance against a brutal fascist government. Disobedience in defying a church that would use its power to further that government's agenda. Disobedience in defying a creature that would bring pain to an innocent child. Disobedience in all of these, and in much more. And the characters alone do not disobey. The filmmakers disobey in tandem, in terms of how they tell a story and in terms of challenging the norms of storytelling itself. Disobedience in the form of a fairy tale for adults. Disobedience in the violence and tragedy of that fairy tale, a genre usually full of happiness. Disobedience in providing ambiguity and refusing to provide a necessarily happy ending. This disobedience makes this film a masterpiece, and there are few films that can top it.
"To obey, just like that, for the sake of obedience... without questioning... That's something only people like you can do, Captain." - Doctor Ferreiro, Pan's Labyrinth