BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Ofelia and her mother move into an old mill in rural Spain to start a new life with her new father, fascist Captain Vidal. Ofelia soon finds that the woods around the mill contain fairies, and a faun that sends Ofelia on a series of quests to prove that she’ the long-lost princess of the Underworld.
PROS: Amazingly captivating story; horribly evil villain
BOTTOM LINE: The best film I’ve seen in a very long while, a worthy Oscar nomination for best foreign film.
I was VERY nervous about taking my wife to this movie. She dislikes having to ‘read’ films (the movie is in Spanish with English subtitles), she’s not fond of fantasy and she really, really hates war movies. Pan’s Labrynth is all those things, and to make matters worse – it’s written and directed by Guillermo del Toro – the guy that did Hellboy and Blade II. Fortunately she knew none of this before we went, and the first thing she said when we left the movie was that we need to get the DVD when it comes out!
Pan’s Labrynth is set during the end days of the Spanish Civil War. Ofelia and her pregnant mother move to a mill in the country so that the baby can be born with her new father, the fascist Captain Vidal.
She soon discovers that the Captain is a horrible, sadistic captain, feared by his men as well as his family. Ofelia frequently escapes to the woods surrounding the mill and soon finds an ancient stone labrynth in which she discovers a woodland faun that thinks Ofelia is the long-lost princess. To test this, the faun gives Ofelia a series of test, or quests.
Half of Pan’s Labrynth is set in the real world, under they tyranny of her horrible stepfather who will stop at no lengths to root out the guerrillas in the surrounding hills, and her mother, who’s difficult pregnancy threatens to kill her. The other half is in a fantasy world where Ofelia quests to prove that she is indeed the long lost princess.
The writing in Pan’s Labrynth is as strong as another fantasy film classic, The Princess Bride, but as light and fun as Princess Bride was, Pan’s Labrynth is as dark and horrific. This is not a Disney film – it earns it’s R rating. Still, the violence and language are not gratuitous.
If you do not see this movie in the theatres (and you should – it’s beautiful!), then you must definitely rent it on DVD.