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If anyone wants to know where the dark, creepy fairy tales of old went, here's a hint: Guillermo del Toro is doing a pretty good job with the fairy tales for adults.
This brings us to one of Del Toro's most brilliant works, the luminously gritty "Pan's Labyrinth" ("El Laberinto del Fauno"). This enchanted little film is a sequel of sorts to "The Devil's Backbone," a magical realism film about the Spanish Civil War -- but this movie takes us deeper into a world that is half real, half ominous fairy tale, with a unique and imaginative story and some really excellent acting. In short, Del Toro weaves a web of frightening magic all around the audience.
Time and place: 1944, Spain, during the Spanish Civil War. A little girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and her very pregnant mother travel to meet her new stepfather, the brutal and murderous Captain Vidal (Sergi López). Unsurprisingly Ofelia loathes her new stepfather, but is transfixed by the eerie forests around them -- and one night she is visited by a fairy, and encounters a giant faun who tells her that she is Princess Moanna of the netherworld, and must return there.
But to do so, he tells her that she must do three things. Ofelia manages first task, but is frightened out of her wits by the second task, which involves a hideous monster with eyes in its hands. And in the ordinary world, her mother's pregnancy is getting more dangerous, threatening the one tie she has to her family. As the guerillas and the fascists clash, Ofelia faces being trapped outside the netherworld forever... and being offered a terrible choice if she wants to get in.
Fairy tales have become cleaned-up and cutesy over time, so that children can read them without nightmares (and adults can feel that they're actually doing something for the kids). But del Toro knows that the best fairy tales are the eerie, bizarre ones full of mystery and danger, especially the ones that are connected somehow to the real world. That is what makes "Pan's Labyrinth" so brilliantly dark and heartfelt: that blur between magic and danger, reality and fantasy.
And Del Toro obviously crafted this with care, directing it in a dreamlike style that wraps you up in his visions, but never to the point of making his audience feel too comfortable with his magical world. The eerie atmosphere of Ofelia's wanderings -- the delicate yet menacing faun, the chalk doors, the monuments, the fairies, and the pasty nightmare with eyes in its palms -- is both a contrast and a parallel with the everyday world, which Ofelia hopes to escape. At first, it seems like the post-Civil War and fairy tale stories don't mesh, until you see that the "real world" story is Ofelia's motivation to escape from all the fear, pain and sorrow, and the bittersweetness of her story makes it more painfully real.
But del Toro's biggest triumph is in the instant connection we feel to Ofelia, with her love of the fantastical and her desire to go somewhere "safe." Baquero is absolutely wonderful in this, as a girl who isn't entirely of this world -- in her heart, she belongs somewhere beyond, and is desperate to escape the terrible situation of her "real life" by going there. And López is the ideal villain -- you spend the whole movie wanting to see him gruesomely killed.
Half "Mirrormask" and half gritty war story, "Pan's Labyrinth" is one of the best fantasy stories in years -- dark, passionate and beautifully made. Definitely a great movie.
This film is in Spanish. It has subtitles. It's not for kids. It's appalling looking through the 'reviews' on here to find the amount of 1 star reviews for people that complain they didn't know it was in Spanish, or they didn't know they'd have to read subtitles. Some guy gives it 1 star because he played the directors commentary instead of the correct audio track and had to contend with "some guy talking all over the top of it." Lots of 1 star reviews from people who sat down to watch it with their kids too. Amuse yourself, have a browse through them.
This film is an outstanding work, with a multi-layered plot that fuses the grim everyday life of a young girl with a mystical place she can escape to. Very very good stuff.
Set in Fascist Spain during the second World War, Franco is in power and The Resistance is trying to make life hard.
When Ofelia's Mother marries Captain Vidal and gets pregnant with his Son, they have to move to the Country to be near him. When they are arriving and Ofelia's Mother tells her to ask the Driver to stop because she is feeling sick, Ofelia finds a rock in the road, realises it comes from a Statue nearby she put it back thus setting in motion a chain of events that will lead Ofelia on a dangerous course.
When they arrive at the Mill the Captain tells Ofelia it is the other hand that you put out to shake.....from that moment on Ofelia hates Capt. Vidal. Mercedes the Housekeeper has a Brother in the Resistance and the Dr., who is employed by Vidal, is also sympathetic to their cause.
Pan's Labyrinth is the best film I have seen in ages. The SFX are incredible particularly Pan who is made to look so real that you can nearly imagine he is. The Fairies are well done too.
This is one of the best films I have ever seen. I have played this many times but I never noticed that in Carmens room the headboard features a Faun.
The most unbelievable movies of all time in my view. The characters, The period the movie is set in, the plot, the ending, the fight against injustice, the indescribable love for a baby sibling, the loving mother, the evil stepdad, temptation and dark challenges that test our most inner resolve, the eyes that see. It all blends in perfectly. Some people are so insanely creative you wonder if they are even humans!!!! I love the makers of this piece of art. Amazing movie
I have done this before tonight and now i will again, i'm surprised that when i looked it up this movies genre was "horror" if it indeed is then i can tell you that its one of the more superiors in that genre, personally i would describe this as "artistic movie" in which genre it might also deserve that 5 stars as its a good example of one in my opinion. Also its only film that i remember to have enjoyed where they speak Spanish so even as that it has "something special"
I just don't find anything bad to say about it so i guess i must rate it 5/5 ? sure maybe its a little cheesy sometimes, and there are some scenes where the actions of the characters annoyed me a lot, its an emotional rollercoaster but i think that is what artistic films are about?
This is studied in the A level Spanish course (it is Spanish language with English sub titles) hence bought for my daughter but we all sat down to watch it. I sent my 11 year old out of the room pretty quickly as it is quite dark and violent in places so not suitable for younger kids but it's a really clever and thought provoking film.
One of his master works. The critical acclaim and awards speak for themselves. This purchase was backfilling a copy I'd lent out and never got back. People query why I even buy physical media any more, but for some reason, this often isn't on streaming services. It's even better than you remember so treat yourself. Go on, you know you want to...
Pan's Labyrinth is one of those films that starts so well that you hope it will stay that good only for it to actually surprise you and constantly improve. It's a remarkably layered work about the importance of choice even in an emotional and political dictatorship and about the fictions and fantasies that sustain people through the worst circumstances. On the surface this appears to be little more than a more fantastic spin on The Spirit of the Beehive, sharing its post-Spanish Civil War setting as well as the broken family setting, but this is a far superior film in every way. Although marketed largely as a fantasy, its real power lies in the scenes set in the real world where Sergi Lopez's all too believable Fascist monster is mopping up the few remaining communist guerrillas in the hills while waiting for his sick wife to give birth to his son while her daughter from her first marriage tries to reassert her own identity rather than submit to the Captain's idea of family.
The challenges of the mythical world are far less disturbing - or violent - than the real one, and it's all too easy to see why she wants to escape into the darkness of the labyrinth where at least the hope of something better exists. But then she's not the only one escaping into the imagination, as her mother sustains herself with a romanticised view of her meeting the captain that he has no interest in whatsoever. To him stories - even a part of his family history that has passed into local legend - exist only to be denied. Lopez's greatest sin isn't the pride that he admits to, or even that he is so pitiless, it's that he chooses to obey without question: the girl's small triumph is that she does not. And the triumphs in the film are generally small, quiet ones, where courage and fear go hand in hand, making the few acts of decency all the more important when they occur. There is one "saved by the cavalry" moment that at first doesn't convince but does prove to be there for a definite purpose that makes the ending all the more powerful.
But while there's a lot going on underneath the surface of the film, it doesn't crush it with the weight of its ideas. It's directed with a visual assurance and, at times, playfulness that sweeps you along, sometimes with delight, sometimes with apprehension, but never simply for the sake of a nice shot or a neat special effect (most of which are incredibly well integrated for such a low budget feature). The performances are superb, with Lopez somehow managing to avoid turning his irredeemable character into a caricature: this is an evil without conscience that is all too recognisable. Javier Navarette's beautiful score is also adept at walking the fine line between magic and emotion without crossing the line into schmaltz.
It's a remarkable film, the only new one that I saw last year that I'd genuinely say is one of the greatest of all time. It's been years since I was so affected by a movie that I had to see the very next show. Practically perfect and definitely one for the collection,especially in the two-disc edition which boasts surprisingly good extras that aren't just the usual self-congratlatory promo pieces.
It follows the story of a young girl, Ofelia, who along with her heavily pregnant mother, are moving in with her mother's new partner, a captain of the military. The story is set during the Spanish Civil war and as such the story unfolds in and around the military outpost where the captain, Ofelia and her mother are stationed.
Ofelia is an inquisitive youngster and she soon starts to see things around the camp that are not what you could call normal! Eventually she meets the Faun, Pan, who gives her three tasks and this forms the real backbone of the story. As Ofelia works through her tasks her situation becomes more desperate as her mother becomes ill during pregnancy and the camp comes under threat from rebels...
The film is very dark and fantastical but with a more adult tone; it's a fantasy of awesome imagination but not for the smallest children. Which leads me on to my next point - the Captain is one of the best villains I've seen in ages. He's thoroughly ruthless and you see pretty early in the movie what he's capable of and from that point on you want him to get his!
A mention should be made of the picture quality of this disc which is outstanding. I recently bought a full HD TV and have been enjoying watching my DVD collection upscaled through my PS3. I noticed as soon as this disc started to play that the picture was utterly superb - the best DVD I've yet seen in terms of picture. Having been getting used to bluray recently most DVD's are almost immediately recognisable as a DVD but Pan's Labyrinth looks awesome. It's a shame they didn't manage to get a DTS soundtrack on there too!
Anyway, I don't want to reveal too much of the story which is very well told. It's nothing particularly new but is told so well it works wonderfully. If you like fanatsy you'll love this. There's a good twist at the end too.