Staring into the eyes of a lifeless child, with a blood clad face and the look of innocence, Guillermo del Toro sends us through her eyes and leads us to what seems to be a realm meant for the deceased. The camera is lifted from this place and rises into the sunlight of 1944 Spain, during the post-Civil War, where the child, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) is merely reading fairy tales.
In Del Toro’s previous films The Devil’s Backbone and Hellboy we saw how one can infuse the elements of good and bad, heroics and death, but in Labyrinth he does something so much different.
Fairy tale based, Pan’s Labyrinth isn’t something you should incorporate David Bowie singing draped in cat-like attire, or learning the faults of being disobedient but on how such a simple tale can be one of the most cinematically exuberant film of the year.
Here we have Ofelia and her pregnant mother, Carmen (Ariadna Gil) who are traveling to battlegrounds in order to live with Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez), a sadistic Fascist officer ordered to rid the last members of the Republican resistance.
Showing his lovely parenting skills, as Ofelia goes to shake his hand, Vidal gives her a bone crushing shake and tells her that she used the wrong hand. As creepy as his greeting was to his new step-daughter, his mannerism of tinkering with his pocket watch and viciously murdering two rabbit poachers suspected of rebellion is a showcase of Vidal on a good day.
Lucky for Ofelia, people are looking for her. That’s if you consider a metamorphic insect / fairy and an oversized faun that walks and does the Robot simultaneously people. The faun informs Ofelia that she’s the daughter of the King of the Underworld and that he’s going to test her to prove that she has not crossed over to the mortal side by giving her three tasks.
Should Ofelia trust this peculiar creature and what could possibly be the three tasks?
When we have to worry about guerrilla and Fascists fighting, little Ofelia only has to deal with a giant toad, cannibalistic monster who craves little children and humanlike mandrake root.
This double narrative is shot with such mystery and accompanied with a daunting soundtrack, you actually become engulfed within this movie.
As this historical and fairy tale nightmare intensifies, the two begin to intersect with other and not providing any escape from each other. The dealings of reality set in on the characters at hand and all Ofelia wants is to go home. On a side note, this movie happens to be one of my favorite movies of all time now, so go see it.