Pan's Labyrinth

Pan's Labyrinth

****

Reviewed by: Moominkat

Pan's Labyrinth is a fairytale set in Spain in 1944. But we’re not talking pretty-pretty fairy folk, rather the stuff of nightmares. It’s definitely a recurring style these days: if you caught the Torchwood episode where Cardiff is threatened by evil fairy folk, you’ll know what I mean.

Ofelia and her heavily pregnant mother, Carmen, have moved from a town life to depths of a forest somewhere in Northern Spain where Carmen’s new soldier husband, Captain Vidal, has been posted to root out rebel activity. He’s a thoroughly unpleasant bully and Ofelia escapes the reality of her life by reading fairy tales. Almost as soon as they reach their new home she sees a fairy creature who takes her to the centre of an ancient labyrinth. There she meets The Faun, who tells her she is the reincarnation of an ancient fairy princess and that if she wishes to regain her throne she must successfully complete three tasks before the next full moon.

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Meantime, we also have the grown-ups’ violent and terrible story of war, power, torture, bullying and bullets. Boy, can del Toro do violence and gore. There’s Mercedes, housekeeper and secret rebel sympathizer; the doctor; the rebels hiding in the hills and, of course, Carmen and Vidal.

Will Ofelia regain her kingdom, or is she living a child’s fantasy which will disappear with adulthood? Will the evil Captain get his come-uppance? Will Mercedes survive?

It’s beautifully conceived tale, dark and spooky. Guillermo del Toro’s style reminds me of both Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam’s gothic fantasies, like The Brothers Grimm but grittier and with less humour. I thought his earlier Spanish language film (also partly set in the Spanish Civil War) The Devil's Backbone was superb, with one of the best-ever onscreen ghosts. To my mind, he’s returned successfully to that form with this film.

Reviewed on: 23 Nov 2006
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Pan's Labyrinth packshot
In the midst of the Spanish Civil War, a lonely girl encounters a mysterious faun.
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Read more Pan's Labyrinth reviews:

Chris *****
Jennie Kermode ****
Nick Da Costa ****

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Writer: Guillermo del Toro

Starring: Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Ariadna Gil, Doug Jones, Álex Angulo, Manolo Solo, César Vea, Roger Casamajor, Ivan Massagué, Gonzalo Uriarte

Year: 2006

Runtime: 119 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Mexico, Spain, US

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