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Pan's Labyrinth
USA, Spain, Mexico
Drama, Thriller, War, Mystery, Fantasy
IMDB rating:
Guillermo del Toro
Ivana Baquero as Ofelia
Sergi López as Captain Vidal
Maribel Verdú as Mercedes
Doug Jones as Fauno
Ariadna Gil as Carmen Vidal
Álex Angulo as Doctor
Manolo Solo as Garcés
César Vea as Serrano
Ivan Massagué as El Tarta
Gonzalo Uriarte as Francés
Francisco Vidal as Sacerdote (as Paco Vidal)
Juanjo Cucalón as Alcalde
Storyline: In 1944 falangist Spain, a girl, fascinated with fairy-tales, is sent along with her pregnant mother to live with her new stepfather, a ruthless captain of the Spanish army. During the night, she meets a fairy who takes her to an old faun in the center of the labyrinth. He tells her she's a princess, but must prove her royalty by surviving three gruesome tasks. If she fails, she will never prove herself to be the the true princess and will never see her real father, the king, again.
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Represents the cruel delusions suffered by a young girl in brutal surroundings. CONTAINS SPOILERS**
I have extremely mixed feelings about this film. Although the performances were excellent, the film itself relies on the 'gimicky' mixture of 'fantasy' and brutal wartime reality to make its mark. In and of themselves the wartime scenes and the fantasy scenes were nothing new until combined together. Each considered separately could be considered extremely derivative.

I disliked this film intensely for its cruel treatment of the young girl (its central character). This film's sole differentiating factor relies on a telling the tale of young girl's tragic journey into first escapism, then delusion and finally death. It is to date the singularly most depressing film I have seen in a good long while.

In the beginning (before we even arrive at the cinema) we are led to believe this a fantastical tale of a faerie world. This may bring to mind positive images for some. However Guillermo taps into the darker side of faerie, capturing the true menace and duplicitousness of that otherworldly breed. It is NOT for children. It is not for adults who expect something magical. Expect grotesque, twisted motives from equally grotesque characters both faerie and otherwise.

We are introduced to Ophelia as an precocious and creative child. Eventually cast aside by her mother in favour of her new baby, abused and rejected by her mother's demented new husband and bereft of all hope she invents a new world of faerie to escape into. So begins her moral, intellectual and mental decline.

As events unfold and and the adults win and lose their various battles, her descent into delusion goes largely unremarked until she steals her baby brother to sacrifice him and open the gates to the faerie world where she imagines she will be a faerie princess, beloved of faerie parents. You could be mislead into believing that this is actually the case yet, if you watch closely, all the signs that the world is entirely of her own creation and in fact completely imaginary are there.

The darkness of the world she creates is a reflection of her failure to truly escape the bleak brutality of the world she really inhabits. What is more, the 'sacrifice' demanded by the faun is a dark reflection of her own desire to reverse the reality where in fact she is the one who has been sacrificed (cast aside). At the last minute could we say that she changed her mind? Or could we say that she recognised her own immorality in such a way that she couldn't accept it and fled once more into her dark world seeking solace and reassurance.

We never discover. She is shot by her stepfather and dies. There is an extremely powerful moment where the maid (Mercedes) rebukes the step father and takes the baby after which justice is served. Then we see Ophelia in her dark faerie world being welcomed by her faerie parents just as she had imagined, a scene which even she must recognise with her last breath as too good to be true when the faerie parents so resemble her actual human parents.

The extent of personal delusion and the brutality of the personal consequences are worthy themes but they are far too adult to be justifiably played out through a child character. In so doing, Guillermo has achieved a shock effect, however relying on such tactics as the central driving force of the film seems cheap and to be frank, left a bitter taste in my mouth. This man should apply his considerable talent with more care and discernment.

We don't learn anything from this film. We simply suffer. And where's the magic in that?
Deadly Dull, Deadly Stupid
Filmed well, but darkly, Pan's Labyrinth is a nonsensical tale of a little girl's adventures through a fantasy world of grotesque creatures and places as she escapes the equally grotesque reality of her worldly situation. Ofelia is step-daughter to a sadistic captain of the guards of an area of Franco's Spain still under guerrilla threat of the residual partisan opposition. The fantasy elements of the movie are pointless and shockingly boring. They are full of unexplained sickening creatures, insects, fairies, and FX hamming.

The stupid insurrection fleshes out scenes of the real world. But the picture is reasonably interesting when the Captain is pursuing his cruel regime and investigations. A servant and some others are sympathizers with the Resistance while working in the Captain's own household. Ofelia's pregnant mother is carrying the Captain's child. The Captain himself is compelling and is clearly no coward. The movie is at it's meager best when he is on screen.

Why is the insurrection 'stupid'? Well, we know, of course, that the Franco regime survived and the insurrection did not. So, we cannot hope to see the rebels prevailing in the long run. This makes their cause and their actions meaningless.

The movie commits the cardinal sin that a movie can commit: the death of a child by violence. Try though they might to dress that up with a scene of Ofelia's reunification with her (by that time dead) mother and natural father in the hereafter, the fact remains that this child has been killed.

The movie is well-shot and well-acted. It is relentlessly dark and depressing. And worst of all, it makes no sense whatsoever. Nor is it interesting. Despite all the fantasy and harsh reality, this is basically an extremely overlong and boring movie. A true waste of two hours.
I get annoyed at movies that preach one thing and are themselves another.

The story here has two components, a real and fantasy thread. The real world thread is simple. By that I mean there are no dramatic complications at all. The characters are theatrical cartoons. The situation starts out brutally and stays that way without any arc, development, evolution. It is in fact a formula movie, this thread, and one that follows a formula that is based on strict, strict boundaries. One would suspect it was written by a German, it is so regimented. One would almost believe it to be written by "The Captain," the bad guy here.

It marches. Its unambiguous. Its final and brutal in its morality, just as the Captian is. There are only good and bad people and the bad are not only very, very bad but they get their deserts. Justice isn't nuanced here. In fact nothing at all is.

I suppose people celebrate it for its fantasy thread. Yes, the effects are good. Yes the creepy eyeless man was creepy. Yes the Tinkerbells were Tinkerbelly. But is this in any way better than "Dark Crystal," which was similarly banal in its cosmology?

Look, I'm one of the ones who get depressed at things like "The Matrix," but if lacking in imagination, is copying was deep, complex, manylayered. This is something that Franco would have written, and little fascist parents would have trotted to, because its all about absolutes and the inability of humans to be rich, subtle, varied beings.The best we can do, is be "innocent."

I often can see some good in any film. But not this one. The world is too close to intolerant extremism as it is. Don't feed it by supporting this.

Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.
Nice production value, meh story, boring characters
This movie had great cinematography and special effects as well as good acting. The basic idea for the story is a cool one, but the war-drama story line is just so boring, even though it is well made. It just goes on and on without really going anywhere, there is no clear goal for the story to reach.

Then there is a fantasy story line, which I found to be cooler and more thrilling then the war drama story line. But both story lines are kinda destroyed by the flat and uninteresting characters. My last point is that I didn't get the point or the message of the movie. It isn't a movie without any depth, but as the movie ends, there is no feeling of an appeal, the story is just... over.

Quite nice to look at, good acting and a decent soundtrack, but also filled with boring and flat characters and an interesting story idea, but it had no special appeal and just continues without increasing.
A masterpiece
1944. Franco's authoritarian fascist regime is a horrid world for a child, barely into her teens. Ofelia retreats into herself, finding in her fantasy world the lessons of courage, self-discipline and integrity she will need. With her, we travel beyond outward appearances, through a labyrinth of fears and uncertainties, from which Spain will not escape for several decades.

A dark, brutal fairytale, chillingly set in the real world but full of hope and warmth, Pan's Labyrinth accomplishes a masterpiece.

Our film opens with a momentary shot of Ofelia, blood from a nosebleed disappearing as the frames are introduced in reverse. A voice-over takes us back to the time of the Spanish Civil War. Ofelia arrives (with her pregnant mother) at a nationalist military base in the woods and is introduced to her stepfather, a vicious commanding officer. Capitán Vidal dispenses arbitrary justice to anyone he suspects is against him. Two suspected rebels caught by his men are summarily executed. Only afterwards is a rabbit discovered in their bag, proving their claim that they are just woodsmen (and maybe also a throwaway reference to Alice in Wonderland).

Ofelia is unwilling to accept this harsh adult world. She retreats into a labyrinth where she meets a strange Pan-like creatures, Fauno, who gives her a set of tasks where she has to face some of her darkest fears, winning a key for her next task.

The story becomes more intense, both outside the labyrinth (where Vidal is busy torturing people) and inside, where Ofelia has to face the Pale Man - a creature that has plucked out its eyes and can only see by placing them in the stigmata on its hands. Around the walls of the room are pictures of people being cast into hell by the Pale Man (From inference or the director's comments, it is apparent that the Pale Man represents authoritarianism, whether that of the Fascists or the Church). In Pan's Labyrinth we have a parable about the journey of Spanish society from the 1940s to post-Franco, a magical fairytale of stunning beauty, a story of the struggle and character development of a child on the edge of puberty, and a tense story of battles between Nationalists and Republicans. That they are all welded together seamlessly and precisely in a multi-level narrative is a remarkable achievement and thrilling experience. The sheer artistry recalls Cocteau's La Belle at la Bête. Del Toro sweeps us into a dreamlike, poetic vision, with a minimum of CGI and a grasp of dialogue that seems almost transcendental.

In a brave decision, an actor (Ivana Baquero) who is only as old as her character has been used to play the young Ofelia. But as the ethereal figure between two worlds, she is also there to cast the earthy characters involved in material battles into more visceral contrast. Editing is crisp throughout, without a single frame wasted. Rich colours and unflinching camera-work keep us rooted in the experience, whether it is Ofelia crawling face-down in the mud and covered with insects, or a hapless victim having his nose smashed in by the Capitán. Yet scenes of tenderness and beauty are equally as moving - Ofelia retreating into her mother's arms, a nursemaid powerless to help her republican lover, or a doctor performing an act of mercy.

The movies, like our dreams, folklore and imagination, are rich with symbols and images that can strike a chord in our deepest being. Artists, as well as creators of myths and religion, have long employed such symbols to guide and inspire, knowing that the conscious mind may accept a sign more easily than rational argument alone.

In watching a movie, we combine ideas of the real, the imaginary and the symbolic to find an inner affinity. And, if the filmmaker has done his job properly, will feel truly moved.

One of the things that can make or break a movie that makes extensive use of symbols is whether those symbols echo in the collective unconscious, often through time honoured association, or not. Knowledge of mythology or Jungian psychology can make all the difference. Much has been made of the title. Originally 'El Laberinto del Fauno', the translation at first appears sloppy, but Del Toro has done his research well. While quipping that it 'just sounded better', a little investigation of classical authorities shows Faunus as a form of the ancient god Pan (Lempriere). Pan, the goat-like god that represents a totality of possibilities, together with goat-like stubbornness and independence of thought, is the perfect symbol. In the film he says, "I've had so many names... I am the mountain, the forest and the earth. . . . I am a faun. Your most humble servant, Your Highness." In Greek Mythology, Pan also won the affections of a princess under the form of a goat. The freedom of thought (and sexuality) he advocated, with the rise of Christianity, caused him to be portrayed as the Devil; but we learn his intentions are good, whereas the holy-looking Pale Man offers temptation only as an excuse to rip his victims apart. As an aspect of the creative power, fauns in mythology also symbolise firm aspiration and human intelligence.

The one symbol that Del Torro is less adept in using is that of dying. He tends to use the valid, if flawed connotation of redemption-through-death promoted by the religions he disavows, but it is a small point that in no way spoils the story.

Pan's Labyrinth leads us through parallel stories and themes without once losing its internal consistency. Some audiences may be put off by the idea of using flights of fancy in such a blatant way or, sadly, by the fact that it is subtitled. Such minor monsters should not get in the way of enjoying the film on a simple entertainment level. Cinephiles, on the other hand, will not want to miss such a rare treat of talent.
Spectacular Fantasy? Not quite, Overrated? Definitely
This movie was horrible, definitely a waste of my time. In my opinion this movie has such a simple plot and structure to it that people tend to overrate it because it gives off a mystical complex idea of a plot that is easily understood yet requires the intelligence of a 1st grader to understand. I've noticed so many people calling it a superb and spectacular fantasy, what makes it such a great fantasy? is it the guy with eyes in his hands? the big frog? or the faun and his fairies? because those are the only fantasy elements in this movie, plus I don't understand why the faun would give her a second chance at immortality after she eats the food off that creepy thing's table, I feel it was just the failed attempt to add suspense and to integrate why that thing would chase after her. I've also noticed many people analyzing this movie's simple metaphors and themes if you're looking for a real movie to analyze check out Donnie Darko. Although I did enjoy the guy with eyes in his hands. Definitely a movie to watch just to say you've seen it, but it will be a waste of your time.
Pretentious waste of time
As i was looking for any great films i might have missed over the years i came across this.At first it seemed pretty good rated so i decided to watch it...

Big mistake.The whole 2 hours I was hoping it would cut it with the real world Spanish war drama crap and go to wonderland already.It was like watching Alice in Wonderland but without wonderland and with some twilight-esquire lets talk about our feelings crap.

Most over-rated movie I have ever come across.It's up there with New Moon as the most horrific movies I've ever watched.The flat ending smashed any hope i had of it being at least decent. Was hoping for some gruesome stuff coming out of the whole "open the portal" thing, i was really hoping the whole princess thing would be just a hoax.

This is NOT a fantasy film!Thats just the commercials in between the soap opera.
Not strong enough in important ways to make it the classic everyone is hailing it as but certainly interesting and engaging enough to be one of stronger films of 2006
Carmen has married Captain Vidal and, pregnant with his son, travels with her daughter Ofelia to join him in his woodland barracks where he is trying to quash the small bands of rebellion against the Fascist regime. Carmen is not well and Vidal immediately puts her into the care of Dr Ferreiro who confines her to her bed after a short time. Vidal is a cruel man, perhaps hardened by the battle he fights and the beliefs he holds and Ofelia finds him to have no time for her and her no interest in him. While she tries to cope with the reality of her new life she also finds herself taken by a fairy into a dark underworld where a faun offers her a new life as a princess if she completes a series of tasks for him.

With all the papers and amateur reviewers here putting this film high up the list of best films of 2006 I rued that I missed my chance to see the film when it originally came out but got the opportunity recently on holiday in Cornwall at what my girlfriend called the "smallest cinema on earth" (it wasn't but it must have been close). Perhaps the weight of expectation on the film played a part but I confess to have enjoyed it but not found the masterpiece that the majority have claimed. The film works pretty well and has a very strong central narrative which, contrary to the marketing, is actually the real world and not the fantasy. This is an engaging real-world horror that focuses on the struggle between guerrilla fighters and the fascists led by Vidal. On the other side of the coin we have the fantasy involving Ofelia where, like the real world, she finds a world of darkness where she is not entirely sure who to trust. Now my main problem with the film is the overlap between these two elements and how they fit together.

I have read others say that the fantasy echoes the real world but, as much as I want to see this, it just didn't ring true for me. On a very basic level I get it but that is different from the film cleverly weaving them together and making it work. This separation detracted from both aspects of the story (although less so the real parts) and also saw the fantasy be only partially explained and harder to become really engaged with. My girlfriend said she felt the story was simplistic enough to work best for older children and that the "horror" part was therefore too harsh as it prevented this audience getting in the door (in the UK this was rated a 15). At first I agreed with her but on reflection it actually works the other way because this is much more of an adult tale but just doesn't quite have the intelligence and complexity in all parts of the story (again specifically the fantasy).

By this point my review will have been slated by all readers who are not used to a dissenting voice but for those who have made it this far let me just say that it is a very good film overall and that I did enjoy it. Outside of the plot there is much to enjoy as well. The writing is very good and the dialogue (albeit subtitled) interesting and never clunky or obvious even if some of the scenes would have made it easy for it to be so. The fantasy world is wonderfully created and engagingly dark with the creatures a mix of wonder and menace. The faun himself is good and well used although it was a shame to see such a terrifying vision such as the pale man so briefly used and with little expansion beyond a lurching menace in one scene. Del Toro directs well across all aspects of the film and keeps this sense of dark menace across everything. I also liked the references scattered across the narrative, such as Alice in Wonderland to name one in particular. He directs his cast well too, drawing a very good performance from Baquero in the central role. López could have hammed it up but, while he doesn't really make a person here, he avoids being a pantomime baddie. Verdú is strong as Mercedes while Gil is good but left with little to do outside of suffer and worry. Jones does well within his creatures to deliver the potential within the design.

Overall then not strong enough in important ways to make it the classic everyone is hailing it as but certainly interesting and engaging enough to be one of stronger films of 2006. Visually impressive and very well delivered, I'm afraid I just found it hard to get over the disconnect between the two aspects of the story no matter how much I wanted to find it.
Wasn't that into it
I had high expectations for this movie. It was impressive as far as the work that went into it, but I didn't enjoy the story that much. I liked the symbolism and I appreciated the fact that everything had a purpose-- every visual, every line of dialog had something to do with the theme. One analysis I've read suggested that Ophelia, by clinging to her books and fantasy world represents a need or appreciation for stories, which is "human," and that the dad is "inhuman" because he only cares about routines, procedures, and the passing of time. The creatures were great to look at, and there were many moments that I enjoyed, but I don't think I'll watch it again.
6 on a scale of 10
I simply can't see what all the fuss is about regarding this movie. There have been hundreds of more violent movies. There have been dozens of more magical movies. There have been tens of better war movies.

What's more, there was very little, if any, character development. We were sympathetic to the child, but pretty much couldn't care less about any of the other participants. All of them were disposable.

I don't like subtitles, but I can live with them and decided not to penalize the movie for them. But, given the choice, it's a no-brainer.

The biggest problem with the movie is simple. It's the ketchup and ice cream analogy. Both are good, but they suck together. Here is a war movie with a child who lives in a fantasy world - presumably in order to escape her terrible surroundings. The fantasy was fairly interesting. The war was fairly interesting. Putting both together in the same movie is ketchup and ice cream. It is irrelevant to me that the reason the fantasy even exists is because of the war. The fact is, they don't mesh well in a movie. But, I will admit, that's just my opinion. Someone else may find the exist together just fine.

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