Guillermo del Toro’s masterpiece which I truly believe is the best in his career to date.
Set in 1944, half a decade after the Spanish Civil War, during the strict Franco era. The story tells of a girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), whose mother marries and falls pregnant by Captain Vidal, a psychotic army captain and extreme loyalist to Franco regime. With her mother’s due date approaching, Ofelia and her mother move to a farmhouse in deep the forests of Spain owned by Captain Vidal.
While at the farmhouse, the naturally adventurous Ofelia begins to explore the forests around the compound where a small wood-like fairy takes Ofelia to an ancient and partially overgrown labyrinth near the grounds. There, she meets a horned faun who tells Ofelia that she is the reincarnation of the underworld kingdom’s long-lost princess. The faun explains to her that if she completes three tasks, she’ll become an immortal princess again.
Meanwhile the civil war between Vidal’s army and The Resistance rages on in the thickly wooded mountains, and her mother’s pregnancy continues to worsen. We witness the extent of Captain Vidals ruthlessness when he mercilessly murders a father and son who were farmers hunting rabbits.
Ofelia completes the first of her mystical tasks which is to retrieve a key from the stomach of a enormous frog, that has been causing unbalance in the woods. The second task proves to be more dangerous as she has to enter the lair of a child-eating monster and steal a dagger. Before the task she is warned not to eat anything otherwise her life will be in grave danger. No joke, this scene is rather unsettling!
In this tense and fearful environment, Ofelia finds a sympathetic presence in the farmhouse keeper and head maid Mercedes (Maribel Verdú), who shows her a neglected old garden near the mill. With its twisting paths, it is a magical place to wander, and a place where Ofelia can lock herself away from the world. Mercedes too has her own secrets as she is an undercover supporter of The Resistance which her brother fronts.
Possessing both a rich sense or narrative and a realistic view of the evils of war, Del Toro mixes his two stories with an unexpectedly emotional context. He still retains the comic love for the trappings of villainy as a precise sound department must have been recruited simply to get the creak of Vidal’s leather gloves on point *shudders*.
In Pan’s Labyrinth, del Toro pays as much attention to his humans as he does to his beasts, unleashing a story with all the shivering intensity and satisfying denouement of the darkest Grimm’s fairy tale.
Young Spanish actress Ivana Baquero holds the screen with a remarkable combination of innocence and maturity, vulnerability and strength. This by no means is a kids film and its narrative should not be taken lightly. There are beatings, slashings and torture scenes that will make an adult look away.
The story is beautifully written, and every scene is shot with immense attention to detail. The setting in the old-growth forests of Spain adds to the weight of the shots. Every facet of the film is truly beautiful. It is a magical piece, and if you haven’t seen it yet..then your missing out!
Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Stars: Ivana Baquero, Doug Jones, Sergei Lopez, Maribel Verdu, Ariadna Gil
Runtime: 112 mins
Enjoy the trailer