Dave and Rachel's movie reviews.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Pan's Labyrinth

Year: 2006
Running time: 119 minutes
Certificate: 15
Language: Spanish
Screenplay: Guillermo del Toro
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Ivana Baquero, Doug Jones, Sergi López, Ariadna Gil, Maribel Verdú, Álex Angulo

The fawn instructs Ofelia in her task.
Guillermo del Toro is a hugely talented director, who makes astonishing films just as long as he’s not working for Hollywood. For example, Blade 2, Mimic and Hellboy are all pretty atrocious films, but when del Toro is making films in his own native Spanish, it is almost like he's a different director; he can be fantastic, and Pan’s Labyrinth is definitive proof.

Essentially a fairytale, but this does not exactly make for family friendly viewing, as this fantastical story is interspersed with ugly scenes from the tale-end of the Spanish civil war. A young girl named Ofelia (played by Ivana Baquero who, unbelievably, was merely 11 years old at the time of making) comes with her pregnant mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) to a village on the edge of the fighting where the fascist captain Vidal (Sergi López), the unborn child’s father, is rooting out rebels in the forests.

Ofelia confronts the terrifying Pale Man.
Taking an intense dislike to her new life and in particular the nasty piece of work she’s now supposed to call father, Ofelia escapes into a fantasy world where she is the long lost princess of a fantastical race and must pass three tests in order to return to her people and leave behind the real world. The two worlds exist alongside each other; the 'real' world is a dangerous place, where everyone is on edge, and hidden rebels live in fear posing as servants and doctors in Vidal's household. Ofelia's fantasy world is every bit as disturbing and dangerous as the real one, beset as she is by giant toads and the Pale Man (Doug Jones, who also plays Pan, the helpful but frightening fawn the film is named for), a monster who sits surrounded by food to tempt the unwary and keeps his eyes in the palms of his hands.

The imagination at work here is wonderful; Ophelia's world is at once beautiful and grotesque, and never fails to astound. The masterstroke is never actually telling the viewer whether it’s real or not – you are left to make your own choice about whether it’s all in the mind or something tangible. This is especially effective at the climax, where one reality sees a violent end for all involved, while in the other Ofelia lives a charmed life as a returned long-lost, much-loved princess.

Score: 9/10

I'll have to agree to disagree with Mark, who was a little disappointed. More in agreement, on the other hand, is this in-depth review by A. O. Scott at The New York Times, which makes for an excellent read.