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Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
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Review Date: December 25, 2006
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Writer: Guillermo del Toro
Producers: Álvaro Augustín, Alfonso Cuarón, Bertha Navarro, Guillermo del Toro, Frida Torresblanco
Actors:
Ivana Baquero as Ofelia
Doug Jones as Pan/Pale Man
Sergi Lopez as Captain Vidal
Plot:
The year is 1944, and a sweet little girl is taken up to the mountains by her pregnant mother, in order to meet her new stepfather, who is the fascist captain of a military outfit up there, sworn to fight the last of the rebels still hiding out in that territory. Lonely and book-hungry, the young girl finds herself transported into a fantasy world in which she meets creatures who attempt to convince her that she used to be a princess. What is this girl’s true destiny? A labyrinth of ideas ensues…
Critique:
As seen at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival


Director Guillermo del Toro seems to have been perfecting his craft over the years with films such as BLADE 2, THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE and HELLBOY, as his latest cinematic adventure delves deeper into many of the darker themes that the auteur has been wrestling with since his debut with 1993’s CRONOS, while taking it all to a much higher level, both visually and emotionally. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that this film isn’t bloody, gory and gross either, as del Toro combines the fantastical story of a young girl stuck in a situation that she doesn’t like or control (an analogy to the fascist regime of those day?), with a super-villain nasty fascist military captain, who doesn’t mind shooting people directly in the head over and over and over again, just to make sure that they’re dead. The film is also filled with various creatures from beyond, including floating insect-fairies , monster toads, something called the Pale-Man that has to be seen to be believed and a faun named Pan, who is one of the creepiest things I’ve seen prancing around on the big screen since Kathy Bates removed her top in ABOUT SCHMIDT.

Seriously though, I’m generally bowled over by the “stories” in my favorite movies, and this one had many elements that engaged me, including its dark nature, an innocent child placed within a war-infected circumstance, relationships between mother, daughter and step-dad and ultimately, a challenging fairy tale fantasy that is either real or created in this little girl’s mind, and let’s not forget, the cavalcade of bugs and icky bits sticking about as a visual nightmare that wrapped the entire movie in a creepy cloak of dread. I enjoyed a lot about this film, but one of the things that most stuck with me all the way through was its look, which came across as thoroughly authentic and mucho eerie, particularly all of its “fantasy sequences”. The actors were also extremely effective, including the lead girl, Ivana Baquero, who has to carry a lot of the film on her back, as well as the lead villain, played delectably well by Sergi Lopez. This guy has gotta be one of the coldest mother-effers on the face of the planet…and I “liked” him that way! The film would likely have worked without him as well, but with a nasty bugger like him at its center, the whole thing was taken to an entirely cooler level. Maribel Verdu is also very good as the little girl’s confidante in the film, and has you caring about herself and her plight to help others.

Another awesome thing about this movie is that despite mixing up some elements from various other productions that have come before it, including ALICE IN WONDERLAND, THE SHINING, SLEEPY HOLLOW, WIZARD OF OZ and even del Toro’s own HELLBOY, it ultimately comes across as wholly original, with a script written by the director himself, combining a children’s fairy tale with sinister themes, monsters and killings, all of which make the movie a brilliant adult fantasy flick with a surprising amount of humanity to boot. I’m sure this film won’t play to everyone, since it does tread the dark side of civilization, while offering some pretty disturbing visual images along the way (and it’s sub-titled, which didn’t bother me one bit, but bothers some), but for anyone who has enjoyed any of del Toro’s works before this, or if you simply appreciate an original movie filled with interesting characters and set in a time not seen in many contemporary movies, you’re sure to dig on much of what this film has to offer, and even moreso if you dig on the many haunting visuals that bring it all to life. This was the best movie that I saw at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and it’s already at the top of my list of faves for the entire year as well. I only wish more people in Hollywood would take chances on films with this kind of imagination behind it. Can’t wait for its North American release around Halloween…cool shit!!
(c) 2015 Berge Garabedian
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7:44PM on 02/11/2007

WHOA

Okay i'm not going to write like 3-4 paragrahs I just wanted to say, well first off... wow. I just arrived back home from seeing this and i don't know where to begin. The movies so dark, magical, very unique, gory, touching, loving, just beautiful. And by the way, that fucker Captain Videl- super thumbs up to the big guy, i fucking hate him and i say it with the most respect. I wanted to jump into tha film and shoot that fucker down, he was such a bad ass mo fo. Also props to lets see, actors
Okay i'm not going to write like 3-4 paragrahs I just wanted to say, well first off... wow. I just arrived back home from seeing this and i don't know where to begin. The movies so dark, magical, very unique, gory, touching, loving, just beautiful. And by the way, that fucker Captain Videl- super thumbs up to the big guy, i fucking hate him and i say it with the most respect. I wanted to jump into tha film and shoot that fucker down, he was such a bad ass mo fo. Also props to lets see, actors all round' especially Ofelia, Videl, and fuck mostly everyone on the silver screen was amazing to watch. Props also to Del Toro, he's a director to be reckoned with lol. Also the music was great and just magnificent all around. Great film, i must see this again very soon before its dvd release in May. Also i'd give tha movie a 9.5, perhaps 10 but i'm going to wait for the second watch.
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3:35AM on 01/19/2007
The way this movie blends fantasy and realism is so flawlessly that you wonder sometimes if there is a difference between the two. That is what makes this movie so powerful and so freakin' good. Guillermo del Toro has created a great movie that takes you deep into it and you can't tear away from it. The movie is violent, dark, gothic, and yet kind of innocent - thanks to its younger charismatic lead, 12 year old Ivana Baquero. Her strong turn as a young girl who's put into a horrific situation
The way this movie blends fantasy and realism is so flawlessly that you wonder sometimes if there is a difference between the two. That is what makes this movie so powerful and so freakin' good. Guillermo del Toro has created a great movie that takes you deep into it and you can't tear away from it. The movie is violent, dark, gothic, and yet kind of innocent - thanks to its younger charismatic lead, 12 year old Ivana Baquero. Her strong turn as a young girl who's put into a horrific situation drives the movie perfectly and she is the heart and soul of the movie.

She plays Ofelia; her and her pregnant mother travel to an army camp where her new stepfather is captain after the end of Spain's civil war. It is here where the captain is the villain and the remaining rebels fight for what little is left of their cause. It is also here where Ofelia creates a quest for herself in an imaginary world; and it is here where the movie excels so well. Del Toro takes us along with Ofelia as she undertakes several tasks to fulfill her journey.

The several scenes where Ofelia is performing these tasks are very suspenseful and engrossing; they go hand in hand with all the violence and ugliness that goes on around her gruesome stepfather, the captain. He makes it very easy to hate him and his cause as he is simply mean and cruel - it's obvious he doesn't love Ofelia's mother, he's just interested in his legacy as she is pregnant with his son. The movie also follows the rebels to an extent, as there are a few of them spying in the captain's base.

The movie's main theme is innocence and escapism in times of ugliness. And the movie excels at showcasing that point; we are brought along for the ride with Ofelia as well as several of the altercations between the captain's forces and the rebels. All of the characters are excellently written and portrayed. Del Toro does a great job of mixing reality and fantasy, and the scenes are beautifully put onscreen. One of the most original movies to come out in a while, and here's hoping del Toro has more in store for us.
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10:06PM on 01/12/2007
With "Pan's Labyrinth," Guillermo Del Toro has masterfully crafted a brilliant adults-only fantasy that is as dark as it is beautiful and primarily centered on a theme of escapism and how, no matter what form it comes in, it can be used to assist one in forgetting (if even temporarily) and enduring whatever struggles, worries, and/or fears that life may bring forward. Ivana Baquero and Sergi Lopez deliver outstanding performances as an innocent young girl who loves fairy tales and a sinister,
With "Pan's Labyrinth," Guillermo Del Toro has masterfully crafted a brilliant adults-only fantasy that is as dark as it is beautiful and primarily centered on a theme of escapism and how, no matter what form it comes in, it can be used to assist one in forgetting (if even temporarily) and enduring whatever struggles, worries, and/or fears that life may bring forward. Ivana Baquero and Sergi Lopez deliver outstanding performances as an innocent young girl who loves fairy tales and a sinister, heartless military captain respectively. "Pan's Labyrinth" is predominantly a fantasy picture, but it also features elements of a war film, and Del Toro seams both genres flawlessly. Nightmarish, heartbreaking, imaginative, dazzling, and unique - "Pan's Labyrinth" is all of this and then some; it's a truly fantastic achievement in cinema.

Strider
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