Hello all… we are at the climax, the cusp of Guillermo del Toro week and what better film to end on then a tailored fairy tale. So get comfy in your seats, grab a beverage and imagine. This is Pan’s Labyrinth.
Spoilers can be magical…
Guillermo del Toro’s creation describes a fascist Spain of the year 1944. The story is once again told through the eyes of a young child. Ofelia (Ivan Baquero ofRomasanta: The Werewolf Hunt, The Anarchist’s Wife, The New Daughter and The Red Virgin) and her pregnant mother Carmen (Arianda Gil of The Age of Beauty, Nuts for Love and Soldiers of Salmina) must journey to the North and Carmen is wed to Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez of An Affair of Love, With a Friend Like Harry and Dirty Pretty Things), a ruthless dictator that delights himself with torturing rebels. And you thought your step-dad was kooky. Ofelia, her head in the cloud realms of dreams and myth does not want to take this monster of a man as her new father, her part-time nanny Mercedes (Maribel Verdu ofCanguros, Y Tu Mama Tambien, The Blind Sunflowers and The Red Virgin) tells Ofelia of a magical garden that she may explore to her heart’s content. Ofelia roams the garden only to discover a massive maze, a labyrinth if you will and encounters Pan (del Toro regular Doug Jones of Hellboy, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer, The Wager and Fallout: Nuka Break), a faun guarding the labyrinth. He identifies Ofelia as the long last Princess Moanna and tells her of three sacred tasks she must perform before the next full moon to reign for all eternity in the Underworld. With these tasks complete she will escape the holy hell that is her life.
Now while this sounds like your typical Disney movie tripe, let us be clear on our director. With a man that combines macabre, humor, fantasy and harsh reality for his films, so we are in for a bumpy ride. Ofelia is operating on her limited logic and emotional plight. With her country struggling to rebuild and the post-war angst, to her mother suffering from a complicated pregnancy and her tyrant of a stepfather, it is not difficult to see why she would want to escape this madness in this realm, but what of the other? I was asked recently if this is a family film and I have to be honest, I really do not know. The film is terrifying in parts of the sheer brutality of humans tormenting one another; to the emotional rollercoaster of the world but any many ways for me I had the same response to the Devil’s Backbone too. If anything it shows the audience that not all tales of history and fantasy are mad dash excitement and good triumphs over evil every time. It gives perspective but at the same time it may fall under more enjoyment for the horror fans. This film offers a dark gothic tale of cruelty in either realm of dream or consciousness so it is really up to the parents to show this one to the kiddies. The visuals alone will blow you out of your seat. Del Toro’s patented panoramic cinematography and melodious pacing of storytelling is what truly makes this mystifying and ominous tale the very life it needed. Be warned Parental Units, this film has a whole lot of bleak.