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The beautiful camera-work is not enough to redeem this utterly banal and empty story. The underlying message raises the old question of utilitarianism: is the happiness of the many more important than the wealth of a few? This is as deep as it gets and disappointment awaits at the end - is that all?
The main character's motivations are not entirely convincing. The only interesting character is the rich man's rebellious daughter. The rest are pawns in a mundane play full of tediously and pointlessly protracted scenes of everyday life.
Philip Glass returns with his equally banal and repetitive music, a five-minute repetition of one short motif.
boring filler episode
The good old Mulder would have said: "Get the fck outta here, this isn't even an X-file. I have a government conspiracy and alien invaders to deal with!"
If this were part of the TV series, it would be one of those boring filler episodes that everyone would forget ever existed. Why the creators of the original series, of all people, chose this unimaginative plot for a feature film is mind-boggling. When I realized that it's the end of the film, I thought: "WTF, that's it, that was an X-Files movie???" No mystery, no thrill, no suspense, no revelation, nothing.
And don't even get me started on all the plot holes. Mulder, escaped convict sentenced to death for murder, hides in plain sight, in the US, while his girlfriend keeps in contact with him??? FBI pardons a man sentenced to death by a military tribunal??? Surgeon doing research for a complicated medical procedure on Google??? Their baby is effectively written out of existence??? Bah...
El laberinto del fauno (2006)
I sometimes curse myself for buying into all the hype and seeing a film that I feel may have potential after all. Indeed, Fauno has a lot of potential, but is executed in a rather dull hollywoodish fashion.
The backbone of the film is the theme of escapism: Ofelia constructs around her a world that would keep her safe, or at least away from the real violent war-world around her. It is a fascinating psychological phenomenon. Yet, sadly, it seems the scriptwriter has chosen to neglect the inner world of the characters to focus on the fairy tale full of special effects and magic so admired by younger audiences.
The consequence is that characters seem, to quote an earlier comment, like "theatrical cartoons". The villain of the story is nothing more than the blunt, simplistic and thoroughly violent Amon Goeth from Schindler's List who has somehow found his way into the labyrinth (perhaps brought there by the faun, though I would opt for the "unimaginative scriptwriter" theory). The villain is bad, the hero is good - this is about as psychoanalytical as del Toro gets.
Other characters are completely left in the background, such as the mother and Mercedes, who perform clearly secondary roles. This would be excusable, would there be more focus on the feelings and contemplations of Ofelia. Yet she is innocent indeed, so much so that how she feels about the whole situation is rarely expressed, explicitly or subtly. It is of course obvious that the state of affairs has a negative impact on her, which is why she gets immersed in fairy tales, but I feel a more detailed insight into her thoughts and the reasons for her "escape" would have been in order. It is the WHY of her obsession with fairy tales that is important, not the HOW.
What Fauno offers us instead is adventures and wondrous creatures. Mixed in are episodes of the real world which is black-and-white, and occasionally very (even absurdly) violent, perhaps to lure more adult viewers. The real world does not clarify the WHY, because very few scenes are present that would expose the viewer to the relationship between mother and daughter, stepdaughter and stepfather, daughter and the memory of the dead father. The bits of dialogue that seem to bring us closer to the characters are short, followed by some more fauns and fairies. What, you may ask, happened to the girl who seemed to miss her real father so much? She got lost not in the labyrinth, but in the attic of del Toro's mind, who decided that it would be sufficient to throw in a few sporadic references to the father and then to forget he ever existed.
The only part of the film I really liked was the ending. Not because Ofelia and her stepfather died, but because it was a truly beautiful transition from real into fantasy - a requiem for Ofelia and for what this film could have been.