Pan's Labyrinth

(El Labertino del Fauno)

The mind of Guillermo del Toro is a strange and beautiful place. Del Toro is best known for his two most recent films, Hellboy and Blade II, but is more renowned for earlier films like The Devil's Backbone and Cronos. Pan's Labyrinth is most similar to The Devil's Backbone. It is a mix between a horror movie and a fairytale for adults. The truly scary thing that del Toro wants to convey is that the real life can sometimes be scarier and more horrific than what people can imagine. The movie is the story of Ofelia (Ivana Banquero, Fragile, Rottweiler), a young girl who believes that she is a princess in a fairy realm. It's 1944, and her father died in the War. Her mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil, Ausentes, Second Skin) takes them to live with her new husband, Capitan Vidal (Sergi Lopez, Jet Lag, Dirty Pretty Things).

One thing is for certain - del Toro creates a haunting world with beautiful and eerie imagery that stays in the minds of viewers long after the film is over. There are two worlds that overlap for Ofelia - the real one and the one in her story. The former takes place in rural Spain on Vidal's large estate. The latter takes place both in Ofelia's imagination and around the house. This is a decaying world that she must travel through in order to complete three tasks. Upon completion, she will be allowed to be with her father again. This world is full of dangerous looking monsters (who may or may not be friendly), fairies, magic keys, beautiful feasts. Del Toro uses a muted color scheme in the real world, focusing on grays and blues. In the fairy realm, del Toro brings in yellows and oranges, effectively bringing everything to life with the sudden contrast from 1944 Spain.

And while there is a lot of eye candy to look at, Pan's Labyrinth is a bit on the sparse side, storywise. Again, del Toro is contrasting the real with the imaginary, but he feel's like he's stalling for time. Vidal is viciously campaigning against the rebels, who can attack at any moment. He cares not for Ofelia and little for Carmen. The only thing he is concerned with is his child, which Carmen is carrying. Here, Ofelia is afraid, and uses her imaginary world as a place of refuge. While dangerous, Ofelia is at home, and as a result, brave here. Pan's Labyrinth shifts easily between the two, even combining the worlds as the movie progresses. Del Toro is pacing himself, trying to create tension and explore Ofelia's reactions to the happenings around her, real and imaginary. And while he may have paced himself a bit too much, nobody is likely to get bored because they will be in awe of what they are looking at on screen.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 52 minutes, Spanish with English subtitles, Rated R for graphic violence and language.

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