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Pan's Labyrinth

Guillermo del Toro's critically acclaimed 2006 dark fantasy film.

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A study in contrasts

  • Jun 28, 2007
  • by
Pan's Labyrinth is a combination of fantasy, drama, and tragedy. Young Ofelia is a daughter of a widow, Carmen, who has remarried to a brutal Franco supporter in WWII Spain, Captain Vidal. Daughter and mother go to live in the countryside headquarters of the captain, who with his soldiers, is fighting local rebels. Unknown to them, the local villagers working at the soldier's camp contains a doctor and a servant loyal to the rebels. Ofelia is unwittingly placed into this cat-and-mouse game of ruthless personal violence. She escapes into a fantasy world, a stone labyrinth situated behind the soldier's camp with origins unknown to all. There, Ofelia meets Pan, a faun, who tells her that she is a princess disguised in human form. Pan sets her to three duties in order for her to re-enter the world below as the princess of old.

Produced with a Spanish cast and spoken entirely in Spanish, this movie explores many themes unknown to many American viewers. First of, the movie is set in Spain during the reign of the fascists, an event in history unknown to pop culture since the book "For Whom the Bells Toll". The resulting interpersonal violence and cruelty is frankly portrayed without any cutaway shots, hence giving the movie a deserved R rating. Second, the dangers of pregnancy childbirth is also explored, as Carmen dies in the middle of the movie. As a corollary, we see how Vidal values his unborn child over that of his wife; a trait barely mentioned but still common in some places. Third, the contrast between Ofelia and Vidal is probably the heart of the movie. The girl is young and innocent, unable to spare a drop of blood of an innocent to save her own life. Vidal is all to willing to kill and maim others, and risk his own life in order to attain whatever end he chooses. Every other character in the movie lies in the spectrum between them. The servant Mercedes, the village doctor, and the rebels lie closer to Ofelia. Carmen lies in the middle between Ofelia and Vidal, and the other soldiers are noticeably less reluctant in their cruelty than Vidal.

The parallel story of Pan is quite good, original by Western standards. This fairy tale side of the movie rings true to fairy tales from old; horrific and full of dangerous creatures, with tasks to accomplish and a context of a different world. The final scene of Ofelia rejoining her true parents is probably the most beautiful in the movie.

As a movie, it did OK at the US box office but quite well at various awards ceremonies. The former was due in part to the Spanish language, and more importantly, the amount of graphic violence. A reduction in the graphicness of the violence would have brought this movie a PG-13 rating, and probably much larger audiences. On technical terms, the music was slow, haunting but not great. The special effects were quite believable. Overall, a good movie to watch, though adults only.

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More Pan's Labyrinth (El Laberinto ... reviews
review by . November 06, 2009
Alice in Wonderland is one of the most beloved stories of our time, It tells of a young girl who falls down a rabbit hole and get's transported to another world where strange creatures rule and the possibilities of magic and adventure are endless. But it's been nearly 144 years since that story first appeared and ever since then film makers have been trying to tell the story a different way for years, But thanks to Guillermo del Toro we have the greatest spin off of all, El Laberinto del Fauno, …
Quick Tip by . June 10, 2010
Visually stunning; interesting plot
Quick Tip by . June 02, 2010
So, so, so, so CREEPY! I hated the main dude. I was Terrified. *shudders*
review by . December 03, 2009
posted in Reel Overseas
The fantasy genre doesn't lend itself well to movies, for whatever reason. Before this decade, fantasy films were much more likely to end up on MST3K or, at best, in a "Most Nostalgic Kids Films of the 80's" list.       Perhaps it's the Spanish-language tendency towards "magical realism" instead of the English-language trend towards Tolkein and Dungeons & Dragons, but Pan's Labyrinth shatters those expectations almost immediately, by melding a little girl's …
review by . September 24, 2009
   Very compelling tale of a young girl who is forced with her sickly and ready to conceive mother, to live with her cruel father in the 1930’s war torn Spanish countryside.  Her father is El Capitan of a military force seeking out rebels against the government.  He loves to torture and brutally murder anybody he catches, whether they are rebels or not (warning: some of the scenes are so graphic that they are difficult to watch if you have a weak stomach).  The girl’s …
review by . November 21, 2009
     Pan's Labyrinth takes place in Spain in May and June, 1944, after the Spanish civil war, during the Franquist repression. Also present is the main character Ofelia's fantasy world which centers around an overgrown abandoned labyrinth. Ofelia's stepfather, the Falangist Captain Vidal, viciously hunts the Spanish Maquis, guerrillas who fight against the Franco regime in the region, while Ofelia's pregnant mother grows increasingly ill. Ofelia meets several strange and magical …
review by . May 15, 2009
Centering around a lonely 12-year old girl named Ofelia with a sickly preger mother, a sadistically cruel stepfather, and a kindly handmaiden--Ofelia escapes into a fairytale world of her imagination. Guided by a fairy she discovers an ancient, crumbling labyrinth guarded by a faun who discloses her true destiny--she is Princess Moanna--but to prove herself she must complete three increasingly challenging and dangerous tasks; The tasks have to be completed before the full moon.     The …
review by . May 21, 2009
It is 1944, and 12-year old Ofelia and her mother are going to a military outpost in the Spanish countryside to live with her new stepfather, a sadistic army captain.   There, Ofelia discovers an old stone maze that leads to an underground world of fairies and adventures while above ground, the captain is closing in on a rag-tag band of insurgents.     This remarkable movie is alternately beautiful and grotesque, cruel and fantastic.  Ofelia's …
Quick Tip by . November 06, 2009
Really amazing film. Extremely thought provoking & beautifully shot. Made me feel like a child again even though it's not a childrens film.
review by . March 21, 2009
Very compelling tale of a young girl who is forced with her sickly and ready to conceive mother, to live with her cruel father in the 1930's war torn Spanish countryside. Her father is El Capitan of a military force seeking out rebels against the government. He loves to torture and brutally murder anybody he catches, whether they are rebels or not (warning: some of the scenes are so graphic that they are difficult to watch if you have a weak stomach). The girl's means of blocking out all this cruelty …
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Newton Ooi ()
Hi everyone, so here is the rundown of me. I like reading and writing, nonfiction for both. I love movies, especially original ones. I like nonfiction music, eating out, and basketball. I love to travel, … more
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Inspired by the Brothers Grimm, Jorge Luis Borges, and Guillermo del Toro's own unlimited imagination,Pan's Labyrinthis a fairytale for adults. Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) may only be 12, but the worlds she inhabits, both above and below ground, are dark as anything del Toro has conjured. Set in rural Spain, circa 1944, Ofelia and her widowed mother, Carmen (Ariadna Gil,Belle Epoque), have just moved into an abandoned mill with Carmen's new husband, Captain Vidal (Sergi López,With a Friend like Harry). Carmen is pregnant with his son. Other than her sickly mother and kindly housekeeper Mercedes (Maribel Verdú,Y Tu Mamá También), the dreamy Ofelia is on her own. Vidal, an exceedingly cruel man, couldn't be bothered. He has informers to torture. Ofelia soon finds that an entire universe exists below the mill. Her guide is the persuasive Faun (Doug Jones,Mimic). As her mother grows weaker, Ofelia spends more and more time in the satyr's labyrinth. He offers to help her out of her predicament if she'll complete three treacherous tasks. Ofelia is willing to try, but does this alternate reality really exist or is it all in her head? Del Toro leaves that up to the viewer to decide in a beautiful, yet brutal twin toThe Devil's Backbone, which was also haunted by the ghost of Franco. Though it lacks the humor ofHellboy,Pan's Labyrinthrepresents Guillermo Del Toro at the top of his considerable game.--Kathleen C. Fennessy
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