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Pan’s LabyrinthMovie Review
by Megan Myers
Genre: Drama / Fantasy
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil, Sergi Lopez, Maribel Verdu, Doug Jones, Alex Angulo, Pablo Adan
Fairy tales and myths are an integral part of world culture, whether you grew up with traditional tales, the Brothers Grimm stories, or the Disneyfied versions of the above. For many of us, these stories become an escape from the trials and horrors of reality, and it is no different for Ofelia, the main character of Pan's Labyrinth.
The film begins with a narrative that tells of a princess who was lost from the world of the underground, only to emerge in our world as a human who grew old and died. However, hope was held out that the princess's soul was still intact, and one day she would return to her true home. This, of course, is the setup for the entire film, and we soon meet Ofelia, a young girl with a large sense of wonder and an interest in fantasy stories – the latter much to the chagrin of her pregnant mother.
The two are on their way to meet with Ofelia's new stepfather, a captain of the regime under General Francisco Franco in 1944. We soon learn that the captain does not care much for his new daughter or wife, but instead places all his hope in the son that will soon be born, and focuses on defeating the rebels that surround his encampment. Ofelia doesn't care for the captain either, and when a strange bug leads her to the decrepit stone labyrinth at the edge of the forest, she is all too eager to plunge into the tasks set before her.
Despite all the previews and press I had seen prior to viewing the film, surprisingly little of the movie takes place in the fantasy realm. Rather, the tasks given to Ofelia by the faun of the labyrinth only provide a backdrop to what is going on in the real world and how Ofelia and those close to her are affected. In a way, this serves to show the audience just how much hope we hold in the stories we create for ourselves. Even when Ofelia is confronted with the worst tragedy of her life, she does not stop in her attempts to join the world of the faun.
The movie is dark both in plot and cinematography – once Ofelia and her mother arrive in the care of the captain, the world seems awash in grey, a strong contrast to the sunlit trees they had traveled through before. Sergi Lopez's captain is cold and ruthless, and the violence he inflicts on his victims is chilling. Ivana Baquero is a perfect wide-eyed child of wonder, and the strength and determination she gives to Ofelia is only outdone by the tremendous love she shows. And although the faun's voice was performed by Pablo Adan, Doug Jones's (who also played the part of Pale Man) movement of the character made the mystery of the labyrinth and Ofelia's tasks more intriguing. (And if you need more proof of Jones's talent as a wordless actor, just take a look at one of his other previous roles: as one of the Gentlemen in the "Hush" episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.)
There is a reason accomplished director and screenwriter Guillermo del Toro's eighth film was one of the most talked about of 2006. As it opens in more theaters throughout the world, and as it has become the first fantasy film nominated for a foreign-language Oscar, there is no doubt that it will continue to be discussed throughout 2007.
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