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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Movie Review: “Pan’s Labyrinth”

   Director Guillermo Del Toro is truly a master of dark fantasy and horror with his Spanish language films such as “The Devil’s Backbone” (2001) and even his mainstream American successes such as “Blade II” (2002) and “Hellboy” (2004). His newest film, “Pan’s Labyrinth,” takes you into a strange and wondrous world filled with magic, myth, and danger.
        Spain, 1944, in the post civil war and fascist Franco reign, a young girl, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), travels with her mother (Ariadna Gil) to the country to live with her adoptive father, Vidal (Sergi Lopez), a ruthless military officer. As a group of guerrilla rebels seeks to depose the fascist regime, the nurse of Ofelia’s pregnant mother, Mercedes (Maribel Verdu) serves as an informant for the rebels. Ofelia, still suffering over the death of her father, she refuses to accept her new stepfather and is worrisome over he mother and yet unborn brother.
When Ofelia explores a long-forgotten hedge maze, she is drawn into a world of fantasy where she meets the faun, Pan (Doug Jones), who believes Ofelia to be a legendary princess and charges her with a quest to restore her royal heritage. On her mission, she will face bizarre creatures and horrific monsters, as she must also find a way to help her mother, whose health is rapidly declining despite the efforts of the doctor (Alex Angulo).
“Pan’s Labyrinth” could be compared to the dark fantasies of the earlier films of Tim Burton, as well as a darker version of “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” (2005). Like “Pan’s Labyrinth,” I am also reminded of the film “Mirrormask” (2005) directed by artist Dave McKean and written by author Neil Gaiman.
“Pan’s Labyrinth” is a deliciously dark and wonderful film experience. Despite the appearance of an innocent, fantasy film, it is actually quite a suspenseful and disturbing experience, often with violent and gory imagery. The film is spoken entirely in Castilian Spanish with English subtitles.