Pan’s Labyrinth : 4 & ½ Stars (out of 5)
It’s rare that we get a movie as devoted and focused to a central theme as Pan’s Labyrinth, so let’s thank our lucky stars. Guillermo del Toro delivered a film so touching and disturbing that it’s hard to classify it into a single genre. All you can really say is that it’s a great film.
Set in 1940s Spain, a young girl named Ofelia Ivana Baquero is torn from her city home to a rural stronghold of a failing government fighting an insurgency. But when she arrives, a mystical creature tells her that she is a Princess that belongs with him in an underworld, and that she must prove herself before she can be reunited with her father.
Which brings up a point worth noting – this seemingly fairy tale-ish film of a little girl discovering another world within nature isn’t just another pretty picture where she saves the dwarf kingdom, such as in other movies out today. No, Pan’s Labyrinth is a dark story where people don’t just die, they are cut open and bleed. It’s not a film for the whole family to enjoy.
Actually, Pan’s Labyrinth is less of a fairly tale as much as it’s a gritty and depressing story of a Civil War with bits of horrifying fantasy sprinkled through-out the film. It becomes more and more apparent throughout the running time that, although the main character is a prepubescent girl, the film is one for adults, and one that would give children nightmares for months.
del Toro, who also wrote the Spanish-language film, paints the film with great detail, not hesitating to bypass one shot of the miserable life that his characters inhibit. Any temporary moment of happiness’s in the film is quickly replaced by a moment of disappointment. Your maid is nice to you? Her boss is unfairly mean to her. You’re going to have a baby brother? Your mom is terribly sick with the pregnancy. It never relents, but it succeeds in showing the lives of these desperate people.
It is through this desperation that the film shows it’s theme – the only way in which to achieve immortality is to first die. Unless you are dedicated and desperate enough for a cause that you would die for it, you might as well just give up. It makes for somewhat of a melancholy message, but del Toro’s majestic storytelling makes it an outstanding film.