Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro has created a mythical masterpiece in Pan’s Labyrinth. Part parable, part gothic phantasm, part social commentary, it is difficult to either describe Pan’s Labyrinth or, to praise it too much. This film truly is a masterpiece of cinema.
Set in 1944 Spain, the fascists have won the civil war and our heroine Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) is moving to the countryside with her pregnant mother and new stepfather, Nationalist Army Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez). Upon arrival at her new home, it is clear that the imaginative Ofelia holds little interest for her stepfather and her mother is soon bedridden due to pregnancy complications leaving Ofelia to amuse herself in the grounds of her new home. Vidal proves ot be a brutal man and Ofelia’s escape into her surroundings soon bring her the realm of the Faun, a magical, fairytale character who gives Ofelia three tasks to complete each more delightful and disturbing than the last.
The tragedy of Ofelia’s journey is that she is drawn to her magical world to cope with the brutality she faces rather than to escape from it. For while Pan’s Labyrinth is a film of exquisite beauty, it also portrays plenty of barbarism and unflinching violence. Seamlessly weaving the two worlds of Ofelia’s imagination and her stark reality, del Toro creates a heroine out of the young Ofelia as she steadfastly refuses to compromise or forget her magical realm. And while this is a fairytale of sorts, the tragic end to Ofelia ensures that the film transcends the banal at every turn and his commentary of fascism is undercut with criticism aimed at the failure of fascism as a political ideology as well as a failure to the imaginary and ultimately to the people who suffocated under such regimes.
A fairy tale for grown ups, a taste of the macabre and perverse through a very dark lens, a political allegory .. call it whatever you like, Pan’s Labyrinth was one of the best films to come out of the first decade of the century and still stands above most of what has been released since.
The creatures are nothing shot of magnificent in this film so I providing some stills to demonstrate the visual/psychological feast that del Toro has created below together with the official trailer.