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In ‘The Drowned and the Saved’, Primo Levi described, based on his own experiences in Auschwitz, a ‘grey zone’. This, Levi used to illustrate the moral ambiguity of many of the Jewish prisoners in the concentration camps, many of whom collaborated with their slavery to a certain extent; merely by obeying the camp regime; by gaining ‘privilege’ as Levi did by working as a chemist in the factory on site; or by actively collaborating with the Nazi programme by working as prison guards. The character of Nazis involved in ‘the Final Solution’ are similarly ambiguous. Himmler famously was repelled by the cruelty of hunting animals, and Gitta Sereny, interviewing Albert Speer in prison, found him to be a complex individual whom she came to like.
Bla bla bla, but what, we ask, does this have to do with 'Pan’s Labyrinth'? Answer, not bleeding much, as the bad Fascist in this appears to be played by Dick Dastardly, or Terry Thomas in ultimate cad mode.
ANYWAY, story begins in Spain, with General Ricardo Dastardlio mopping up the remains of the angelic brave tragic republic. The heroine of the story, SMALL GIRL, heads to military outpost with mother, who, with the typical female intuition, has hooked up with Ricardo, probably because the first time they met he blew smoke into her face while putting Thin Lizzy on on the jukebox, and gave her a ride back home on his motorbike.
SMALL GIRL has surreal experiences where she delves into an ethereal netherworld populated by Pan, fauns and other such stuff, presumably to escape the unmitigated guff that’s going on in ‘real world’. But WHERE are the goblins? WHERE is Bowie? Cue a lot of hocus pocus with root of mandrake, which is presumably a sop to Guardian critics with a literary education who are going to literally wet themselves at this kind of shite.
Verdict: I wish the Goblins WOULD take this film away