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Pan's Labyrinth
Year:
2006
Country:
USA, Spain, Mexico
Genre:
Drama, Thriller, War, Mystery, Fantasy
IMDB rating:
8.2
Director:
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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Reviews
boring good guys, disgusting bad guys, impotent fantasy creatures, lovingly rendered torture effects
A fairy flies around the face of an enthralled, fairy-loving girl for the first time, and she just looks straight ahead, smiling vaguely. Giant black bugs crawl up her arms and she ignores them. A terrible monster sits quietly at a food-laden dining table but ehhhh she's hungry so no need to even keep an eye on it. BUT OH when a thing hits a guy hard in the face yes of course the face breaks and blood squishes through the ruptures and his dad cries out in anguish and tries to reach for him and then the guy gets a bullet and more blood squirts out and then the dad gets shot too and more blood squirts out. Etc. etc. for two hours. The message: Fantasy is irrelevant; guns are reality.
2010-08-22
A Truly Modern Fairytale
Guillermo del Toro how to tell a real fairy tale. A fairy tale that isn't all princesses, princes, magical fairies and happy endings. It might have them, but the point that has been sanitised out of fairy tales over the last century or so is the fact that they were originally cautionary tales for children, handed down through generations of oral tradition to teach children what life is. And what is the one fact that children should learn as soon as possible? That life is nasty!

Laberinto del Fauno (titled Pan's Labyrinth here, though no mention is ever made to the faun in the film being Pan) is the story of Ofelia, a little girl forced to move with her pregnant mother to rural Spain to be near her step-father, a Captain in the fascist army during the Spanish Civil War. As she experiences first hand the horrors of war and fascism, she enters an ancient maze and meets a faun who tells her she is a lost Princess of an underground kingdom and must pass three tests to claim her place there.

I will admit that I went into this film expecting a nice, children friendly movie, but del Toro pulls no punches when it comes to the war, a war he experienced as a child. It's hard sometimes to decide what was more important to the director; Ofelia's story, or whether that was just a backdrop to highlight all the more the cruelty and brutality of the war.

There are no Indiana Jones style comedy Nazis here, the fascists are truly evil and we see it. Both the violence (which is just graphic enough to prevent us from being able to ignoring it without ever being gratuitous) and the mindsets of the people involved. What is more disturbing that any of the on screen actions is the attitude of 'pull the ladder up jack, I'm alright' of those who find themselves in privileged positions. Ariadna Gil, as Ofelia's mother showcases this perfectly. She knows full well what Vidal thinks of her only as a vessel for him unborn son, and that he probably killed Ofelia's father, but she never seems to resent him. Neither does she ever seem to love him. What you get is more a kind of relief, she knows that as long as he has a use for her she and her daughter are safe. It's purely self preservation, to know your place and survive, and that is more disturbing to me than anything else in the film.

Sometimes it's even almost as if Ofelia's quest is the subplot, as even fantastical tales of giant toads, fauns, a magical kingdom, the Pale Man (a horrific creature with it's eye in its hands) pale into insignificance when we're faced with the true life horrors that we see mankind inflict upon itself.

And that's one of the most interesting aspects of the story. Even as everything goes on around her, as the Civil War rages around her, her mothers life lies in Captain Vidal hands, what can the innocent do. Ofelia is not part of this world, she hasn't had a hand in creating it and she does not have a hand in affecting it's outcome. The faun and his quests are, to her at least, far more important as they are something that she is involved in, that are about her.

On the technical side this is a beautifully crafted film. The cinematography and sets are wonderful, never once setting a difference between the real and the fantasy. Both aspects of the film seem just as important to del Toro, some directors would have favoured one or the other sides of the story and that would have made the film unbalanced.

It's clearly influenced by many fairy tales, and a nice touch is, like many movie fairy tales, we never certain whether the fantasy is real. Is Ofelia really a lost princess from a magical kingdom, or are all her adventures and meetings purely from her imagination, one of the stories she tells to her unborn brother expanded to protect her from the nightmares of real life? What Guillermo del Toro has done with this film is to create a beautiful fairy tale masterpiece that harks back to the days when fairy tales were told around a fire to scare children, not read at bedtime to put them to sleep. But despite what I said earlier about this not being a children's film, take some to see it and I still think they'd enjoy it, even if it was from behind the cushion.
2006-12-14
Beautifully told, half fairy tale, half tragic reality
The fairy tale aspects of "Pan's Labyrinth" resemble somewhat Lewis's "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" in that there is a fantasy world one steps into and out of from a "real" world. But the film of "...the Wardrobe's" book was not the work of CS Lewis but of a translator (into film).

IMO "Pan's Labyrinth" has FAR more power and I suspect much of that comes because it is the director's (del Toro) fairy tale and his conception and realization was always in the grammar and syntax of film. Probably, for that reason, it is an EXTREMELY powerful, unforgettable presentation.

Some will despise it while many others will value it, often for similar reasons: there is not a single message or a single point of view. The film can be viewed from almost equally valid contrasting positions -- one, that the fairy tale aspects are a young girl's fantasy life boat she creates to escape a harsh, uncomfortable world. The other is that her fantasy world DOES have a reality and life of its own.

There is ample evidence distributed throughout for both points of view.

HELPFUL HISTORICAL POINTS: The time is 1944, shortly after the end (1939) of the last Spanish Civil War which was won by the fascist dictator, Gen. Francisco Franco, head of the Spanish army in Spanish Morocco. His fight and rise to power was supported by many factions: the Catholic church, many wealthy Spaniards, and other factions. Franco's bloc was opposed by the existing government (a republic) and a coalition of other factions with opposing agendas (such as decreasing the strong influences of the Catholic Church and the wealthy upper class, etc.).

Several autocratic regimes gave Franco support: Hitler and Mussolini sent tanks, dive bombers, and troops, flouting League of Nations efforts to keep others from intervening. Spain became Hitler's laboratory for his later Wermacht tactics. Socialists, communists, and anti-fascists in many countries provided volunteer soldiers to help the republic; the Abraham Lincoln brigade was composed of Americans who volunteered to fight fascism.

Franco's forces made deliberate efforts to crush equally all opposition and non-supporters by brutality, coercion, atrocities. The actions in this film deal with residual rebel forces unwilling to concede defeat.

I have no idea how representative Capitan Vidal's actions and attitudes would be for Spain in 1944, five years after the Civil war's end but they are symbolic of the approach used by Franco forces during the war (and possibly also by many of those who opposed him, maybe in retaliation? or maybe not?).

The photography, music, visualizations, directing, casting and acting are superb. It's said at Cannes the film received a 22 minute ovation; IMO every second was deserved.

There are some scenes of graphic torture that I could not bear to see and had to position my hands in front of my eyes so I could still read the subtitles while blocking the rest of the screen.

THIS IS NOT A FILM FOR CHILDREN. It is both a history lesson and a fairy tale for adults.

The preteen girl in the part of Ofelia is outstanding and carries a film that needs no carrying. The other main characters were also excellent -- Capitan Vidal, Carmen (his new wife), Mercedes (house manager & rebel), the doctor, and the Faun/Pale Man.

IF you can appreciate ambiguity in the dividing line between fantasy and reality -- and competing interpretations, IF you can tolerate holding up your hands to block acts of cruelty from your eyes, SEE IT -- it's destined to be an iconic classic.

BUT IF that sort of thing isn't your cup of tea, save your time and money, see something else -- and don't diss this for being something it isn't.

FWIW/FYI: at this time, with 19,000+ votes, over 85% rated "PL" as a 10, 9, or 8; fewer than 5% rated it 5 or lower.
2007-02-06
Beautiful pictures and state of art scenes, depressed and poor performance, irrationally illogical plot
I was very intrigued with plot, camera work and visual effects at the movie beginning, however all plot lines were spoiled one by one until nothing even mediocre remained from the movie at the end. I feel very upset, because visual effects and camera work remained astonishing throughout the movie. Fantastic and magical ideas and scenes appeared from time to time, but incredibly illogical plot turns have broken each scene experience. Overall plot looks crafted and quite unnatural. I found several scenes displaying extraordinary violence unneeded and over-the-top, they made the movie look more like a trash one. Actors' performance was very mediocre: only the Captain was good, the girl didn't look very scared when she should absolutely have to.

Anyways, I would recommend this movie, because so many people enjoyed it, but don't expect too much.
2013-01-27
Extremely overrated
This is the first time ever I felt the urge to post a comment here on IMDb and this is simply because most of the times I have more or less agreed with what was already written by others. But now, I simply cannot believe this movie has such a high user rating! Did we all watch the same thing? Reading your comments and posts my impression was that this was a movie for grown-ups. But, common! Sometimes the given "reality" of this movie seems more fairlytaleish than the actual fantasy bits. The villain could not be more plastic and banal if this were a 007 movie (kills innocent elderly people and little children, beats women, tortures little animals and alike). I mean the Nazis from Indiana Jones and those Frank Capra Why We Fight WWII propaganda movies had more character depth than this one! And the good guys are good guys for the sole premise of being human vs this ultra-evil devilish opponent. There is no solid argument why we should support them apart from the fact that the alternative is a sadistic monster. Now, this movies main idea, or so it seems, is to contrast the actual world of reality to the imaginary world of fairy tales. But they don't differ! At all! The "reality" has as little to do with reality as the fairytale. They're as archetypal, as brutal and as imaginary. And seriously, it takes a master film artist to kill a kid and get away with it (like Brian De Palma in the Untouchables, perhaps? or whoever did the movie version of the Lord of the Flies for eg). Otherwise, it seems just pathetic. Like the easiest way to appeal to emotions. For me, this death felt "undeserved" because the script was so badly crafted. It felt even offending in a way.

OK, the cinematography is great and Del Toros imagination, as we all know by now, can sometimes be stunning. But is that enough to deem it a masterpiece? I'm giving it a 2 instead of a 1 for the sole reason that its heart is in the right place.

There is a topic in the discussion board on weather the girl really died or just went back to her kingdom. I couldn't care less. There's this other movie, Ghost World, with a similar ambiguous ending. If anyone skipped it, rent it and spend a great evening watching it. Don't go waste your money on this.

Sorry about my English, Im not a native speaker.
2006-11-05
Entartaining but not one of the very best movies from last year
When I heard first time about the movie made by the Mexican director Guillermo del Toro that was a mixture of many genres, including drama, fantasy, thriller, and fairy tale for adults that takes place in Spain of 1944 in two parallel words, one of unbearable bleak and horrifying reality, and the other of deliciously dark magic fantasy, I wanted very much to see it. I knew that the movie has been praised by many critics and has made hundreds top lists of last year, that it was nominated for countless awards including six Academy awards and it won three Oscars, and that it had received 20 minutes standing ovation at Cannes. The main reason for me was the fact that I love del Toro's earlier film, "The Devil's Backbone" (2001), the ultimate ghost story that goes beyond the genre and very successfully mixes horror, suspense, and coming of age during the war time story.

I hoped and expected "Pan's Labyrinth" to be as compelling, insightful, interesting, and engaging as "The Devil's Backbone" was. I finally saw "Pan's Labyrinth" couple of days ago and I was disappointed. The movie has an interesting concept, even if not original one. It brings to mind many famous works of literature and the earlier movies about the little girls escaping their dreadful realities of war or death of the loved ones or all sorts of abuse in the world of their imagination such as "Forbidden Games", "Spirits of the Beehive" (which "Pan's Labyrinth" tried to be but never was), the later also takes place in Spain during the Civil war, as well as "Wizard of Oz", "Alice in Wonderland", "Legends and Myths of Ancient Greece".

One movie that "Pan's Labyrinth" has been often compared to is Terry Gilliam's "Tideland", his fairy tale for adults, his "Alice in Wonderland meets Psycho" which also tells the story of an 11-years-old girl and her world of imagination. "Tideland" was released last year and was either ignored or hated by majority of critics and left many viewers puzzled and confused. I am not completely in love with "Tideland" but I found it much more interesting that "Pan's Labyrinth" in all aspects. The main difference between the two - Gillian does not present reality in his film in the simplistic way and does not divide his characters to devilish monsters or shining knights the way Del Toro does in "Pan Labyrinth".

I am not sure what the target audience for Del Toro's film is? Its story (the writer/director was nominated for the best screenplay and I found his writing the weakest and most ridiculous part of the movie) is so naive and primitive that you would think the movie was made for children but its shocking violence and horrifying tortures are not easy to watch even for adults. Another problem is with the characters. I know I should sympathize with Ofelia, and who would not feel empathy for an 11-year-old girl who had to live through the death of her mother and to confront her monstrous step-father but if frankly, her character is not very interesting. As for visual effects and cinematography, the film looks good but not especially spectacular or breathtakingly beautiful. Of five Oscar nominated films for best cinematography from last year, at least three seemed to be more interesting. Gilliam's "Tideland" that was completely ignored by the Academy, is always technically superb, visually arresting and much more impressive than "Pan's Labyrinth".

I should admit that at least one scene in "Labyrinth" was absolutely brilliant - dark and scary it came directly from Francisco Goya's terrifying painting, "Saturn Devouring His Children" and it was extremely imaginative. I would not go as far as calling "Pan's Labyrinth" a bad movie and give it one star. It is not bad; it is just not as great as I thought it would be. As for all the awards, "The Devil's Backbone" is much more deserving than "Pan's Labyrinth" and that's the film I would give a standing ovation to.
2007-05-26
A masterpiece
This movie is a Mexican-Spanish co-production and in my opinion a Guillermo Del Toro 's masterpiece. If we defined a masterpiece as a content or form who finds an adequate expression in an art form then this movie is one . There are so many things to talk about but let's start with the photography that have an outstanding quality , it's almost like paintings . The screenplay unite 2 separate worlds , the world of fantasy and the post war era in Spain in a very wise way. Being Spanish myself I recognize many of the things the screenplay talks about . The actors and actresses do a once in a lifetime performances , for me this movie is a casting miracle . Ivana Baquero, Maribel Verdú ( in a performance full of dignity and courage), Sergi Lopez ( his fascist is a terrible character but he gives him humanity ).The music score by Javier Navarrete is full of subtle details and good orchestration .And the movie never takes the easy way , it's full of logic and good storytelling . A truly great movie that one cannot miss, be in cinemas or DVD.
2007-04-08
NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!
And I didn't expect what I got when I saw Pan's Labyrinth, either. Based on the marketing, the reviews, the previews, the buzz, etc., I was looking forward to a moving, visually rich mythopoetic tale that would feed my spirit and inspire my imagination. What I saw instead was a bloody, disgusting, depraved, amoral, aspiritual, nihilistic, and ultimately pointless horror film that fried my nervous system, left me furious, and made me fearful for any culture that embraces this sort of psychotic trash as art.

I signed up with IMDb just now for the sole purpose of warning others like me away from this soul-abusive celebration of torture, blood lust, killing, and graphic ultraviolence. I'm so glad I didn't see this in a movie theater, as it would have been severely traumatizing. Thankfully, this nightmare was a rental DVD from the local video store and I'm headed out the door to return it as soon as this review is posted. I don't want this sadistic violation of my senses and my spirit in my home any longer than necessary.

If you are a sensitive person with a kind heart, a vivid imagination, and a rich inner life, do yourself a favor and do NOT expose yourself to this psychotic splatterfest.
2007-05-28
Characters are just stereotypes
After reading all the positive reviews and being a great fan of Maribel Verdu (since her role in "Amantes"), I had great expectations before seeing this movie. Quite honestly, I was disappointed. The characters lack depth. All falangistas are incredibly bad and sadistic, and all nationalists republicans are good in this movie. Stereotypic. If Del Toro wanted to make Capitan Vidal really terrifying, he would have made a little bit more sympathetic at times, like "Landa" in Inglourious Basterds - probably the most terrifying nazi ever on the silver screen. Vidal could at least have been a little bit concerned for his wife when she was bearing his unborn son. But now, he is a facha macho, so he can not show emotions at any time. Even the symbolism of the labyrinth is too easy : especially the end, where the self sacrifice of Ofelia is a clear sign of a Messias, including the invitation to sit at the right hand of her father in a sort of a pagan Trinity (with her mother). The cinematography however is wonderful and the actor perform well, but the scenario is just too shallow for my taste.
2010-10-03
Visual feast for the eyes
If there is one thing I can guarantee with this review it's that you will not see another movie like Pan's Labyrinth the rest of the year. In English or in Spanish.

With its dark imagines, brutal violence and terrifying fantasy creatures, I challenge you to find a film on par with Guillermo del Toro's vision of a young girl in Spain circa 1944 who endures the growing pains of a new family while imagining a world where creatures that would give Stephen King nightmares surround her and coax her into various tasks of passage.

Pan's Labyrinth is a movie almost too complex to explain. There are two tributaries of plot. One involves the real world where Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and her pregnant mother travel to their new home amidst the violence of the Post-war Fascist repression. While adapting to new father whose penchant for sadism is wiggle-in-your-theatre-seat cruel, young Ofelia takes comfort in her mother's arms. But when her mother has complications with her pregnancy, Ofelia quickly finds retreat with the unusual characters including nymphs and fairies that lead her on three tasks that suggest the offer of reclaiming a throne.

The second story surrounds this journey into fantasy and I have yet to find the words two hours after the screening to describe the various characters that include a huge toad with a secret key hidden inside its belly and a creature that eats young children and has eyes on the palm of its hands.

Creepy stuff. Think Big Fish is written by Clive Barker.

Writer and director Guillermo del Toro (The Devil's Backbone, Hellboy) spins a whimsical story that is as engrossing as it is repulsive. The war scenes are brutally realistic with bullets not being spared for the long suffering, and a torture scene that includes utensils marked for your father's toolbox gave me the heebie jeebies a la Hostel. Guillermo is able to walk a thin line with confidence and with this entry, he secures his spot as one of the most interesting directors working in the mainstream today.

Pan's Labyrinth received a 22 minute ovation when appearing at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006. I can't in good conscious share the same enthusiasm. But on the other hand I can't deny that this was an incredible spectacle that definitely deserves multiple viewings to fully appreciate the beauty amongst the violence and the creativity of the storytelling among the dark corners where creatures lurk and adventures await.

www.robertsreviews.com
2007-01-22
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