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WGUC Reviews

Pan's Labyrinth

Pan's Labyrinth
Rated R
Review by: Larry Thomas

It seems as if fantasy films have been, for the most part, confined to the realm of children and teenagers, even though Grimm's Fairy Tales were actually on the "grim" side. Nonetheless, Harry Potter, The Lord Of The Rings, and The Chronicles of Narnia have captivated that segment of the audience.

The new Spanish film Pan's Labyrinth transforms this entry in the fantasy film genre into a truly adult tale, in which a twelve-year-old girl attempts to escape the horrors of real life.

The film is set in the rural Spain of 1944, just after Franco's victory. Post-war Fascist repression is at its height. Young Ofelia journeys with her pregnant mother to a remote outpost to live with her new stepfather, a monstrous officer in Franco's army. It is his personal mission to slaughter all members of the Spanish Resistance.

In the woods, Ofelia finds a different world, populated with fauns, fairies, and a quite grotesque ogre-like creature. But these non-humans dwelling deep underground are nowhere nearly as frightening to her as the humans whom she must live among.

Ivana Baquero, who was twelve when she made Pan's Labyrinth, is a terrific actress who brings real compassion to the character of Ofelia. Maribel Verdu is quite touching as the mother who must make the best of her choice to marry the soldier following the death of her husband. And Sergio Lopez as Capitan Vidal turns in a chilling performance that unearths the black pit of a man's soul.

Written and directed by the incredibly talented Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, Pan's Labyrinth features excellent creatures and special effects, and the original music by Javier Navarette is as good as any heard in a film this year.

The film has earned its "R" rating with strong violence and horrific images that make it totally unsuitable for kids. Despite this, it's one of the most gripping and emotional films of the year.


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