Spain, 1944, young Ofelia (Baquero) and her pregant mum, arrive at a small village to meet up with Ofelia's ruthless stepdad Captain Vidal (Lopez). As war rages around them, the young girl finds solace in a labyrinth within the woods nearby, interacts with its supernatural uinhabitants while having to deal with the real life uglyness around her.
"I've had so many names...old names that
only the wind
and the trees can pronounce - Pan"
Been here in Cannes 2006 for two weeks and its about damn time that I see a genre film that slam-dunked higher than the average mark. Writer/director/producer
Guillermo del Toro’s
newest film PAN’S LABYRINTH
kicked the notion of “average” right out the freaking window to deliver an all around, excellent and moving piece of morbid celluloid art. Although not a horror film in the classic sense of the word, the flick gave me enough macabre imagery, gut wrenching substance,
chill inducing beasties and visceral jabs to the gut to classify has one. Think a superior companion piece to del Toro’s finer than bloodstains on white lace
Pan’s Labyrinth excelled on so many levels it wasn’t even funny, starting with its central character of Ophelia (excellently played by
) and the psychologically layered and visually arresting ordeal she took us on. The way I saw it we (the audience members) were Ophelia, seeing
this insane world through her eyes, and I for one was truly affected by the mental and physical pummeling that she was put through. From being smacked in the middle of a fascism fueled war, to being tagged with the most evil
since Terry o Quinn
hit his wife with a phone to the heart wrenching conflicts she had to deal with when it came to her relationship with her mother, I was right there with
her, swimming in that hopeless abyss. Props to del Toro for communicating all of those levels with gritty realism and an axis towards maximum impact, it got the intended reaction out of me.
I was hooked line and hooked some more.
And the harshness continued with the Fairy Tale world Ophelia escaped to. Although filled with
Fairies and peculiar entities, all of those “children’s book” elements were
slammed on the table with dark cards, as if even within her own imagination, Ophelia still couldn’t escape the somberness she was dropped in. That M.O. resulted in a striking, highly symbolic (to the true life events) and rich world for her and us to explore!
Lovecraft-like creatures, a giant frog, many o creepy/crawly bugs and one particularly FRIGHTENING monster
(named Pale Man) with eyes on its hands (Est tu my Ex?), if this world was supposed to act as comfort zone for her and us, I want out! Put me in a maximum security prison instead, seems more chipper and at least I get a free meal! Although the eye popping
and deliciously deathly Fairy Tale setting was horrific in its own stabs, nothing kicked my
skull in more than the film’s human horror.
The film embodied human evil, un-flinching fascism and the un-apologetic nature of war into one man and that very badass man was Captain
. Brilliantly played by Sergi López
, the repulsive character was responsible for most of the frights, toe biting suspense and jaw dropping “did he just do that” thoughts that I went through on this watch. He was the main bearer of nasty violence in the film as well! Remember the cold
(played by Jason Isaacs) in the Mel Gibson starring THE
? Well Captain Vidal made that chap look like a Care Bear with a big rainbow heart stamped on his tummy. What a truly revolting yet entrancing character. I loved to loathe and fear him. Any gripes with this waking nightmare? Not really. I did think that one tragedy wasn’t emphasized upon enough for my liking and that Ophelia did drop out of the film for a tad too long at some point but those minor peeves didn’t tarnish what was this incredibly engrossing experience.
Darker than pitch black, filled with stellar special effects/designs,
crushing brutality and sucker punching plot turns, PAN’S LABYRINTH was a “real”
film, one with heart, multiple coatings and something substantial to say via
valid atrocities and a desolate dream world that will either kick your ass or
kick it harder. Guillermo del Toro has topped himself with Pan’s Labyrinth, it
is his masterpiece. I NOW OFFICIALLY NEED A DRINK!
It gets messy in this labyrinth, with ugly creatures, some head bashing with a bottle (harsh), many gun shot wounds (lots to the head), some nasty knife slicing (ouch) and more that I won't reveal. The red grub was played down and dirty. When it arose, it did with punch.
Ivana Baquero (Ofelia) showed some solid chops as the young lead and carried the film admirably. Sergi López (Captain Vidal) stole the show as the heartless yet hypnotizing bastard. Talk about presence! Maribel Verdú (Mercedes) and Ariadna Gil (Carmen) were exceptionally credible as the two female leads. Doug Jones (Pan and Pale Man) put his expressive body language and voice talents to GREAT use via playing both spooky entities.
None, the movie wasn't about that and didn't need it.
Guillermo del Toro has outdone himself visually here, dipping the two worlds of the film in thick bleakness and hopelessness. Technically, I was taken by the smooth, awe inspiring shots and the stylish yet un-imposing angles that the story was communicated through. The random moments of potent suspense, slick cinematography and the hard hitting way the plot turns were executed whooped me silly too! Grade A!
PAN’S LABYRIYTH was an oppressive, mucho emotional, uber gloomy yet incredibly engaging sit down that didn’t give me much of a break when it came to being left -hooked with bleakness. I mean even when the flick went Fairy Tale on me; it was still an upsetting experience with solely a glimmer of hope sparking about. I don’t know what type of bitter-beans del Toro grinded his coffee with when he wrote this screenplay, but whatever they were, they worked! Thank you for this multi faceted, heartfelt and novel piece of work. Get lost in this labyrinth and thank me when NEVER GET OUT!
The film's Spanish title is "El Laberinto del Fauno", it cost 15 Million to make and was shot in Spain.
The film was in Spanish with Englisg subtitles, they better not dub it for US release!
Doug Jones also played Abe Sapien in del Toro's HELLBOY.
THE OFFICIAL PAN'S LABYRINTH SITE HERE