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Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

El Laberinto del fauno

What happens when make-believe believes it's real?

Starring:

Álex Angulo

Ariadna Gil

Carmen Vidal

César Vea

Doug Jones

Eusebio Lázaro

Francisco Vidal

Gonzalo Uriarte

Ivan Massagué

Ivana Baquero

Juanjo Cucalón

Lina Mira

Manolo Solo

Maribel Verdú

Roger Casamajor

Sergi López

Directed by:

Guillermo del Toro

Rating: 9/10

Running Time: 119 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

After watching Pan’s Labyrinth for a few minutes, I thought to myself, “How lucky for the kids that get to see this when they’re young—it’s like their generation’s The Neverending Story.” Then I remembered it’s rated R—and I saw why. This is a fairytale, definitely, but it’s a fairytale for adults, one that challenges us to decide if the fantastic world of imagination is any less real than the unimaginable cruelty of real men—and it does it with style, beauty, and some surprising gruesomeness.

We are told, early on, the story of a Princess. This Princess lived in a kingdom underground, but like all otherworldly Princesses seem to do, she wanted to try out being a human and ran away. Unfortunately, her foray into the real world ended in her death, but her father the King vowed he would wait for her return as long as breath still flowed through his body. Fast forward many years, and eight-year-old Ofelia (Ivana Baquero)—along with her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil)—has arrived at the encampment of her new stepfather, the brutal Captain Vidal (Sergi López). Upon her arrival, Ofelia is visited by an assortment of mystical creatures urging her to claim her rightful crown as the missing Princess, a process that sends her on an unforgettable adventure and provides an escape from the real world collapsing around her.

This was actually a much different—and darker—movie than I expected. Having only seen trailers and previews highlighting the film’s fantasy elements, I was surprised at just how much of it was set in the real world of fascist Spain at the end of the Spanish Civil War. The fantasy world is unmistakably prevalent throughout, with absolutely stunning visual effects and makeup that surpass even the most ambitious efforts out there today, and a young heroine whose wide-eyed belief makes even the craziest notions credible. Also, it could be easy to focus on the effects and creatures, but the acting alone is superb—Baquero’s young Ofelia carries most of the film with innocence and strength, and López is just plain evil as the captain capable of shocking violence. The magic of Pan’s, though, is in contrasting the fairy world to which Ofelia escapes with the horrific world around her. Even for a jaded horror fan like me, there were scenes of such brutality and pain that even I had to look away. Not to be outdone, the world of the labyrinth induces some eyes-behind-fingers moments, too (Eyeless guy? Terrifying!), and the faun who serves as Ofelia’s tour guide of sorts is questionable at best, menacing at worst. Once again, Guillermo del Toro places the decision of where to draw the fairytale line in the sand with us, and as a girl who thinks we need some from both sides, I appreciate once again that he gives us the choice without forcing his intentions on us.

It's Got: Striking visuals effects and makeup, A scary guy with eyes in his hands, A even scarier guy with a gun.

It Needs: Audiences who enjoy deciding for themselves, Audiences willing to read subtitles.

DVD Extras Audio Commentary (Video Prologue by Guillermo Del Toro); Audio Commentary (Guillermo Del Toro, director); Four Featurettes: ”The Power of Myth”; “The Faun and the Fairies”; “The Color and The Shape”; “The Charlie Rose Show featuring Guillermo Del Toro; The Director's Notebook; Production Sketches Storyboards; Storyboard/Thumbnail comparisons; Trailers, TV spots. DVD Extras Rating: 8/10

Alternatives:

Hellboy II, Legend, The Dark Crystal, The Neverending Story

Summary

Whether you see it as a full-on fantasy movie or as a look into the imagination of a young girl living under horrible circumstances, Pan’s Labyrinth is a magical, visual stunning fairytale adventure for adults.

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