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
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.