Friday, August 17, 2007

Fountain / Pan's Labrynth

In the last couple of weeks I had the chance to watch two very good films, Pan's Labrynth and The Fountain. Alike in many ways, most notably:

- both explore the nature of life and death
- both are like paintings - beautiful and surreal with little dialogue
- both are imaginative -- you are not sure what is real and what isn't
- both have their protagonists escaping into an imaginary world (or is it?) to escape a reality that they have a hard time coping with

To my surprise, I actually liked The Fountain more. That's not to say that Pan's Labrynth wasn't good. It was. But the Fountain just seemed to affect me more.

Without giving to much away, the "fountain" is the Fountain of Youth. The main character Thomas discovers it and either lives a thousand years, or is reincarnated several times or maybe none of the above. Maybe it all is just a metaphor for life and death and what is important in life. It doesn't matter. Through the passage of time, he has to cope with the illness and loss of his wife. It's how he handles this that propels the story.

Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz seem perfectly cast. I always seem to like Weisz in anything she is in. Jackman is incrediby versatile.

The special effects are great but unlike normal sci-fi action pics (Star Wars type movies), it is more for the story than just for the sake of special effects.

If you take it as straight sci-fi, it works. If you take it a romance, it works. If you take it as an artistic representation of the fleeting nature of life, it works.

Pan's Labrynth finds a little girl escaping the grotesque and violent world of World War II era fascist Spain by creating her own fantasy world. This is a world of fantastic creatures and dangerous quests.

Pan's Labrynth succeeds because the transition between fantasy and reality is seemless and not forced. The look of it is is stunning. Del Toro is of the great trio of Mexican directors (Cuaron (Children of Men) and Inarritu (Babel) being the other two). Cuaron is one of the producers of this film.

While being of the world of fantasy films like LOTR and Narnia, it is very much for a different audience. The level and nature of the violence is shocking and this movie is definitely for adults.

I did like Pan's Labrynth but my viewing of it perhaps suffered because I had been told by so many people and critics that it was great. By the same token, I was pleasantly surprised by the Fountain because I hadn't heard a lot about it. Regardless, both of these directors seem to understand that film is an art form and not just a means of making money (a concept lost on a large portion of Hollywood).

I recommend both these films:

Pan's Labrynth Grade: B
The Fountain Grade: A-

"You can shed tears that she is gone,
or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she'll come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all she's left.
Your heart can be empty because you can't see her,
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her only that she is gone,
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back.
Or you can do what she'd want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on." -- British poet David Harkins


Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

The Fountain really is a wonderful film, I wish more people will see it.

I liked you comparison of the two films. I feel like I'm the only person on the planet that won't see Pan's Labrynth, for me it looks too harsh.

Great reviews!

CyberKitten said...

Pan was brutal in places - but it took place in brutal times - and also explained why the girl felt the need to escape. I'm still in two minds about it... but it was certainly visually stunning. The ending though was a little twee for my liking.

Laura said...

I loved Pan's Labyrinth. I'll have to check out the Fountain when I get a chance.

Pan brought invoked a little of the fantastic visuals of City of Lost Children.

dbackdad said...

Laura - Very good comparison. I love City of Lost Children. All of the Caro/Jeunet movies have a brilliant visual sense and are so original (Delicatessen, Amelie).