Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
October 19, 2015 10:34 AM - Subscribe
In the falangist Spain of 1944, the bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world.
Guillermo del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth" is one of the cinema's great fantasies, rich with darkness and wonder. It's a fairy tale of such potency and awesome beauty that it reconnects the adult imagination to the primal thrill and horror of the stories that held us spellbound as children. If you recall the chills that ran down your spine and the surreal humor that tickled your brain in the presence of "Alice in Wonderland," "Little Red Riding Hood" or "The Wizard of Oz" when you were a child (or, later, in the nightmarish dream-films of Luis Bunuel, Jean Cocteau, F.W. Murnau or David Cronenberg), you'll discover those sensations once again, buried deep in the heart of "Pan's Labyrinth."
As gruesome and brutal as it is enchanting and spellbinding, "Pan's Labyrinth" is a movie intended for adults, not children, as its "R" rating indicates. Some kids under 17 will find it fascinating (especially if they know Spanish or don't mind reading subtitles), but it's a harsh and uncompromising film -- although less gory and violent than many video games.
"Pan's Labyrinth" is itself a narrative maze, with multiple stories that branch and eddy, flowing apart and back together again like the a stream tumbling down a rocky hillside or, more aptly, blood spilling over a craggy boulder. Opening titles set the story in Spain, 1944, as resistance fighters lurking in the mountains continue to fight Franco's fascist regime. And then, immediately, before we can grasp any visual bearings in that world, the subterranean voice of Pan (a faun, whose name "only the wind and the trees can pronounce") whisks us into a fable about a dead princess whose kingly father waits for his daughter's soul to return in another form, and to reclaim her place at his side.