Pan’s Labyrinth is a 2006 fantasy film given to us by director/writer Guillermo del Toro. It contains multiple stories, with the main one being given to Ofelia (Ivana Baquero). Ofelia is a young girl who after a short while in is told that she is actually a princess from the Underworld. Because of this fact, a faun (Doug Jones) has come to ask her to prove that she truly is the princess. Ofelia is required to perform three tasks before the next full moon, or she will remain trapped in her human form, unable to become the immortal being that she once was.
Set a short time after the Spanish Civil War, there are also a few side stories in Pan’s Labyrinth, that occasionally decide to interfere with Ofelia’s quest. Ofelia has a mother. Her mother is pregnant with the child of the captain of a base camp. He is certainly one of the more interesting characters, never quite possible to figure out all the way, while still never acting sporadically. The housekeeper is secretly helping the Guerrilla forces in their fight against the captain by smuggling out supplies. All of these lead to many events that never stop being captivating, yet still are nowhere near as entertaining as Ofelia’s adventures.
The film works on many levels. It is beautiful, having a set art direction, and not separating from it. The visual effects, despite a couple of them looking slightly off, look amazing. Guillermo del Toro has built a world that you want to look at. It ends up being one that you cannot stop staring at. Despite the film having a far darker tone than some other fantasy films, it never stops being a joy to look at. Pan’s Labyrinth actually ends up being quite gruesome. People are shot and stabbed with a greater frequency than I expected going in. Some scenes almost making you want to look away, but you won’t. The film won’t let you. It never stops being a joy to watch. The soundtrack is hardly noticeable, a trait that is usually a good thing, but when it does become noticeable, it does what it is supposed to. It adds mood, whether that be calmness or tension. The soundtrack helps bring out the emotions in the characters, even though they likely didn’t need the help.
Words can’t really describe some of the crazy and twisted things that occur within Pan’s Labyrinth.
I cannot think of a single actor that did not play their part wonderfully. Ivana Baquero plays a wonderful Ofelia, and is now only one of the few child actors who did not manage to annoy me throughout a movie. Doug Jones plays the faun, a character for which you don’t necessarily want to care, yet shows his fair share of emotion. The Captain is played by Sergi López. He plays the “ruthless dictator” well, but the character also has his fair share of both tender and comedic moments. All the characters make you feel something all throughout the film, leaving you perplexed, stunned, sad and happy at various points in it.
Despite the fact that film is without a doubt worth watching, there are certain parts that gel together far better than others. Ofelia’s sections definitely fall into the “far better” part of the film. Every time Ofelia is front and center, you know that something magical is going to happen. I can’t say this about every other part of the film. Parts involving the captain are usually fun, but some of the scenes he is involved in just don’t seem to mesh well with the rest of the movie. The housekeeper Mercedes is also guilty of this, but with her character being less fun than the captain, when her scenes don’t work, you really do notice. They do end up serving a purpose, helping further her character’s development, but in comparison to the rest of the film and its imagination, these scenes fall flat and feel boring.
Pan’s Labyrinth is absolutely a film you need to see. Words can’t really describe some of the crazy and twisted things that occur within it. The visual effects are solid, the art direction is imaginative and captivating, while the soundtrack helps to bring out the best of the above average acting. That’s about all you can want in a film. It’s a film about fairy tales, but does them in an adult fashion. It’s essentially a film that appeals to the childish part of the adult brain, yet does it in a way that their mind can now handle. Those two elements, childlike appeal and dark thriller combine in such a way that will leave you wanting more. It is dark and gory, but does it in an incredibly visually appealing way. Pan’s Labyrinth is something that you will have a difficult time turning away from, even after the incredibly moving final scene.
Conclusion: A fantastic and fantastical movie, Pan’s Labyrinth is an amazing experience.
Recommendation: See Pan’s Labyrinth. Now!