Friday, September 07, 2007

Movie Review - Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

Guillermo Del Toro’s Spanish language fantasy opus; Pan’s Labyrinth is a spell binding, magical, wondrous movie that is a dizzying mix of horror, fantasy, action, and drama.

El Laberinto del Fauno (or Pan’s Labyrinth for those who sprechen the English!), tells the story of an intelligent, but bookwormish, young girl named Ofelia (played by Ivana Baquero) who is forced to move into the Spanish countryside in 1944. Her recently widowed mother has remarried a captain in the fascist Spanish Army who is leading a campaign to eradicate pro-democracy rebels in the surrounding Spanish hills.

Captain Vidal, played by Sergi Lopez, is a cold, evil man who has traces of the callousness and bloodthirstiness of Ralph Fiennes character in Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. He shows an immediate disdain for Ofelia as she is not his child, is a girl, and is baggage that her mother brings from her first marriage. Ofelia’s mother, on the other hand, is loving – bat also pregnant with Captain Vidal’s child. To Captain Vidal, she carries his son, who will carry Vidal’s name and who will fulfill all of Vidal’s dreams of primogeniture.

It is among this backdrop of interfamilial politics, set against the wartime background of the army’s protracted campaign against local rebels, that Ofelia withdraws into a fantastical world. Near their villa is an old hedge maze that leads to a pre-Roman, pagan, grotto dedicated to the pagan god, Pan.

Ofelia meets a fairy, who leads her to the labyrinth, and to a faun in the service of the King of the Fairies. He tells Ofelia that she is the King’s daughter who has been cursed and trapped in human form. Fortunately, the curse can be broken, but to do so she must complete three tasks in order to regain her place as the Princess of the Fairies.

Whether this is her imagination or it is real is immaterial. Del Toro weaves the conflict of the real world with the supernatural challenges Ofelia faces incredibly. The imagery, the make up, the effects, the photography are all breathtaking and beautiful. Amid the beauty and splendor and sometimes horror of Ofelia’s fairy world trials is a story of a child lost in the ravages and horror of war; as well as the greedy ambitions of the sociopathic Captain.

It’s so hard to believe that the same man who brought us Hellboy (One of my favorite films ever, hand down!) could put together so moving and visually stunning a spectacle, but he has. The narrative moves in and out of the two worlds and maintains a deliberate and inevitable pace that lead inexorably towards its poignant and haunting ending.

To review this movie, or even try to capture all of the wonder that is this movie, is near impossible. All I can say is that you must see it! It is one of the best films I have EVER seen (strong words, I know, but true none the less.). This is less a horror or fantasy movie than it is true cinema. It is unique, awe-inspiring, and is one of those rare films that shows that cinema as a medium can rise above simple eye candy and superficial storytelling. This is the type of movie that proves that motion pictures can be true, soul touching art.

Go…see it! Do it now!

Doctor Zombie’s Rating: 5 out of 5 Chomped Brains!!!

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