I was very impressed by this film and how many different ways it can be read/experienced. It is indefinable even by genre or plot (is it a war film, coming of age, fantasy, etc.)
I made the mistake (as many) by thinking this was just a dark fantasy/fairy tale. I actually mistook the title to be a reference to Pandora’s Box (not the god Pan) – since the preview I saw showed a young girl opening a box and some kind of dark spirits coming out.
While watching the film I couldn’t help but also reference other stories. Ofelia/Ophelia (of Shakespeare’s Hamlet), driven mad by the politics and death. Ofelia’s Alice in Wonderland-like dress & frock and how she descends into the alternate world. The faun was portrayed ambiguously at first and the cloven hooved animal asking for a sacrifice conjured up Christianity’s portrayals of Satan.
I think one’s background/beliefs in mythology, religion and the time they grow up in can very easily influence how you perceive this film.
I’ve read nearly 200 comments on imdb and everyone has different interpretations/expereiences. The fantasy world can be read as real or imagined. The ending can be read in different ways.
Even people’s comparisons to other films/directors varies across the board (Takashi Miike, Ridley Scott, Miyzaki, Gilliam, Henson, Neil Jordan, Tim Burton, Etc.). People have mention the film is comparable to other films"Spirited Away", “Life is Beautiful” “Company of Wolves” “Alice in Wonderland” etc.
I personally saw a parallel to another film showing the horrors of war & its aftermath “A Very Long Engagement”. I thought the combination of imagination and belief vs. bitter reality of warfare was similar. As with “AVLEngagment”, I thought the war scenes in this film were both stylized enough to be interesting to watch and bloody enough to be realistic. I dislike gore, I dislike GRATUITIOUS violence, but I would have been disappointed if it had been too sanitized and unrealistic. This was not some horror flick where some people watch gratuitious bloodshed for FUN. Yes I had to cringe & look away, but I hope that scenes of torture and killing would make me do so.
This brings me of course to the social commentary on today’s world – where our country is heading towards facism (with the removal of our civil rights) and those who dare to question and refuse to blindly obey are condemned as traitors “giving aid to terrorists”. I thought the speech by the doctor about not being able to blindly “obey” as the single best moment in the film. This was not just a film about facism then, it’s a film about facism today – so take heed.
Yet despite the warnings people can be selfish and refuse to listen and will pluck at those grapes thinking no one can see them or that it can’t hurt to take a small step down that road….
All in all a stunningly gorgeous film – the red of the food at the table of temptations, the eyeless creature itself — not too much CGI (which too me can ruin a film). The acting was superb by all and I thought the main characters were fleshed out fairly well. (I particularly liked the Captain’s obsession with time — for me that scene of him annoyed at the late arrival of the cars conjured thoughts of Italy under Mussolini where (supposedly) the trains always ran on time). I would highly recommend it to all adults.
p.s. I was hoping for commentary about the symbolism in the film — what is the eyeless creature she unleashed? why did she pick another lock than the one the fairies pointed to? is the mandrake root in milk & blood something from folklore? (The mandrake root reminded me of a Czech film “Otesanek” where this childless couple adopt a root that becomes their baby).