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Pan's Labyrinth
USA, Spain, Mexico
Drama, Thriller, War, Mystery, Fantasy
IMDB rating:
Guillermo del Toro
Ivana Baquero as Ofelia
Sergi López as Captain Vidal
Maribel Verdú as Mercedes
Doug Jones as Fauno
Ariadna Gil as Carmen Vidal
Álex Angulo as Doctor
Manolo Solo as Garcés
César Vea as Serrano
Ivan Massagué as El Tarta
Gonzalo Uriarte as Francés
Francisco Vidal as Sacerdote (as Paco Vidal)
Juanjo Cucalón as Alcalde
Storyline: In 1944 falangist Spain, a girl, fascinated with fairy-tales, is sent along with her pregnant mother to live with her new stepfather, a ruthless captain of the Spanish army. During the night, she meets a fairy who takes her to an old faun in the center of the labyrinth. He tells her she's a princess, but must prove her royalty by surviving three gruesome tasks. If she fails, she will never prove herself to be the the true princess and will never see her real father, the king, again.
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Completely Overrated
This movie is unbelievably overrated. As a movie, of course, it is not the worst movie to watch, and I am not saying that. All I am saying is that this movie is horrifyingly disappointing and overrated, IN MY OWN OPINION. I have talked to other people, and most have loved it. Maybe it is just me, but I found it stupid, pointless, and a waste of time, when I could have been watching other movies. I have heard people continuously complain about how it didn't win "Best Foreign Language Film" at the Academy Awards, and I have no idea what those people are talking about, it is a totally unsatisfying movie experience. It is utterly a depressing and unbelievably stupid movie. Again, it may not be the worst movie in the world, but it is completely overrated and disappointing.
I think this is two fairy tales - one tells the story of the heroine's three tasks in Pan's labyrinth, and the other the fight between good communists and bad fascists. In the end the final task corresponds with the defeat of the fascists.

The production and acting are very good, the fantasy scenes are imaginative, and overall it's good to watch. The only violence I had problems with was the amputation scene - had to turn away. I had a problem with a couple of plot points- the heroine breaks the rules, which seems out of character for her + as a consequence Pan says the game's up, but then returns to give her another chance. The second bit does get resolved, but it bugged me.

The story's not really satisfying because it's a total fairy tale - no true insight for the audience. Plus it seems to me the heroine's completion of her fantasy tasks produces the kind of hierarchical system that the goodies have been fighting against in the other fairy tale. So that makes it politically naive.

I hadn't watched this before because it's subtitled + had a reputation for being weird. I wish it had been genuinely weird.
Pan's Labyrinth: The Fairy Tale of the Decade
Yes, this movie is a fairy tale. Yes, it deals with fairies, fauns, and ogres, with magic spell books and princesses. No, this movie is not at all for children nor those who dislike major violence.

Labyrinth takes place in Spain in 1944s, during a time of Spanish civil war. A ruthless Captain (Sergi López), has set up camp in a distant forest, and requests that his pregnant step-wife (Ariadna Gil) and her fantasy-obsessed daughter, Ofelia (brilliantly played by Ivana Baquero) join him there. As she tries to adjust to the country life smack dab in the middle of the battlefield, Ofelia runs into a magical fairy who leads her to a mystical labyrinth, where she meets a mysterious and suspicious faun, Pan (wonderfully played by Doug Jones), who tells her that she is the long-lost princess of an underground kingdom, and that she must complete three dangerous tasks to return to her throne.

While the movie closely follows Ofelia's tasks, spoken to her by a magic book from Pan, it is mostly about the war, double agents (Maribel Verdú and Álex Angulo), and the Captain's near-obsession with his expected son. The battles are extremely brutal (starting early with a couple of rabbit hunters) and made me queazy a couple of times. So brutal are these deaths, in fact, that you'll be relieved to see a simple shot to the head or back.

The acting is top-notch, and young Ivana Baquero has a huge and brilliant future ahead of her (picture Dakota Fanning, only a better actress and less annoying). The animation is phenomenal, but not nearly as breathtaking as the costumes or scenery. The labyrinth itself just sucks all the breath out of you when you see it at night for the first time. The "pale man" (also played by Doug Jones), is by far the most terrifying creature in the movie, most-likely to give even the most mature and grown-up adults shivers.

Yes, this movie does have sub-titles (it's in Spanish), but it's hardly noticeable at first, so much so that you forget about them by the tragic end of the movie.

This movie is frightening and sad to the extreme, but it also gives you a sense of hope that magic does, in fact, exist. One of the best movies I've seen in a long time and truly the fairy tale of the decade!
The Darkest Fairy Tale
(SPOILERS) Pan's Labyrinth blew me away. Set during a Spanish Civil War, the setting often alternated between the horrors of reality and the fanciful wonderland that the young girl Ofelia, played by Ivana Baquero found herself in. After an encounter with a bipedal talking Faun played by Doug Jones who tells her she must complete 3 tasks before the next full moon in order to escape the mortal land and live with her father and mother who are royalty of the underworld. Each of these three tasks require Ofelia to venture away from her pregnant and sickly mother, played by Ariadna Gil and brutal step-father played by Sergi López to complete these tasks she receives from a magic book that the faun had given her.

This movie was beautiful. Beautiful in the darkest of ways that I think I have seen put to film. A housemaid named Mercedes who essentially takes Ofelia under her wing has a lullaby that she hums to Ofelia at one point of the film. It is so simple and beautiful but very important to the film as you can hear it and its influence throughout the score of the film. The color pallet of the film is incredibly dark yet beautiful. The reality of the civil war ravaged area of Spain is constantly overcast and dark or rainy and each of the fantastical elements of the film are presented in the same type of light except I noticed that with each task Ofelia had to complete the composition of the shots became darker and darker as her situations became more and more dire. This darkness continues until the incredibly bright, bittersweet climax of the film. Innocence of person seems to be the central theme of this movie. Ofelia is thrust into a world she wanted nothing to do with. Her mother becomes pregnant and moves to the compound where the Captain Vidal and the men he commands over reside. He is a terrible, brutal man. Vidal is perhaps one of the most brutal and frightening antagonists I have ever seen in a film. He treats Ofelia and her mother like objects while only caring about his son (the baby that the mother Carmen is pregnant with). He takes no prisoners except to torture and maim them before killing them when he receives what he wants. Ofelia stands to be the central figure of innocence throughout a war where both sides are killing each other or backstabbing each other. Ofelia's innocence is brought to light in many instances throughout the film until the climax when the Faun requires the blood of an Innocent to open a portal back to Ofelia's true royal family.

This movie was very different than your standard "Innocence triumphs" type film. No one is sacred or untouchable in this movie and it shows throughout. While a movie such as E.T. has a bitter sweet ending and the innocent child risks his life to save another certainly could be paid tribute here in Pan's Labyrinth, I feel it is taken to an extreme showing the horrors of experiencing a war as a child from the frontlines. Motifs in which Ofelia's innocence are tested throughout the film. There are moments when her character traits put those around her in danger because she didn't consider her acts to be "That bad" and in the ultimate test of innocence she sacrificed herself for her brother ultimately earning her way from her mortal body to reclaim her spot as princess in the underworld with her mother and father. This film truly shows a strong innocent character in Ofelia. She was brave until the end and while the film seemed to leave the ending up to the viewer I like to believe that it was truly a bittersweet ending when the credits rolled. A dark and twisted fairy tale, Pan's Labyrinth was great and highly recommended.
NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!
And I didn't expect what I got when I saw Pan's Labyrinth, either. Based on the marketing, the reviews, the previews, the buzz, etc., I was looking forward to a moving, visually rich mythopoetic tale that would feed my spirit and inspire my imagination. What I saw instead was a bloody, disgusting, depraved, amoral, aspiritual, nihilistic, and ultimately pointless horror film that fried my nervous system, left me furious, and made me fearful for any culture that embraces this sort of psychotic trash as art.

I signed up with IMDb just now for the sole purpose of warning others like me away from this soul-abusive celebration of torture, blood lust, killing, and graphic ultraviolence. I'm so glad I didn't see this in a movie theater, as it would have been severely traumatizing. Thankfully, this nightmare was a rental DVD from the local video store and I'm headed out the door to return it as soon as this review is posted. I don't want this sadistic violation of my senses and my spirit in my home any longer than necessary.

If you are a sensitive person with a kind heart, a vivid imagination, and a rich inner life, do yourself a favor and do NOT expose yourself to this psychotic splatterfest.
The Labyrinth of Del Toro
Guillermo Del Toro shows an incredible amount of passion for his job. In interviews, in festivals, it is undeniable that this man adores making films, from one end of the creative process to another, and has tremendous energy and honesty for the activity. Nevertheless, there is something that doesn't function in his films, and as heartbreaking as it is to see someone with ideas and talent fail, this film isn't an exception and has a few weak points as well as his other ones. For some reasons explained further, it isn't even a "true" fantasy film. I have to stress upon how wonderful and magnificent the imagery - not just of this film but of all his films - is. Man-like creatures, caves, labyrinths, statues, puzzles, everything that contributed over the years to make Del Toro's imagery makes him a very powerful visual director, which times like these are in desperate lack of. The visions he projects onto the screen make him no less than a visionary. The thing that fails to give his film(s) the grandeur they need, though, seems to be always the same element: character depth / psychological analysis of his characters / the way the characters and their personalities blend into the rest of the film. Maybe we can attribute it to Del Toro having more patience to polish the sequences with special effects than the ones with actors, but in particular in this film, the characters seem to have no depth at all, they are grounded to feel one emotion at a time. Ofelia in the film is shown owning and reading books, but her relation to these books, what they mean to her, what they bring her, this relation is never shown or explained, we have to go by a stereotype and "assume" for ourselves that she has a wild imagination. The mother of Ofelia is also a faulty character of the story, we the audience have to fill a gap, and imagine for ourselves why shy would be attracted by Vidal, what brings her to be forced to stay with a monster like Vidal as opposed to remaining a single mother, etc... Vidal himself is very quickly presented: we know his lineage was military and that his father let him have his watch... not much of an emotional background for a man who tortures and kills with no hesitation! We know nothing of Vidal as a child, we only have this one-dimension, Manichean character. The list goes on, and none of the characters - Mercedes and Pablo, the doctor, etc, are presented or explained to the viewer. The same could be said about the elements of the illusory world. Usually, though, fantasy/horror films don't need any explanations (see Edward Scissorhands, Alien, Legend...), but this one would need to have some, and this is probably due to the state of psychological confusion of the characters (or, should I say, their irrationality). Ofelia, throughout the film, seems to live in constant fear of the tyrant Vidal, yet finds enough time and solace to go on imaginary journeys at night, and light-heartedly do anything the faun asks her, without even questioning or wondering where it will lead her. Mercedes, when given the opportunity to gut Vidal and be finished with him, leaves him alive half-way. And the doctor itself, whose side on the events is never clear, never poisons Vidal or puts himself in the way when given opportunities. Is Guillermo Del Toro cold? We might wonder. He has absolutely no scruples when he tries to shock the audience with violence towards nice characters, with monsters, with blood. Yet when his overall goal is to make a fantasy film, he remains a little bit too polite and shy to really break into the genre. To me, a "real" fantasy film would have had the imaginary break in the "reality". Yet Vidal doesn't see the faun, the faun doesn't save anyone or scares Vidal. Reality remains reality and fantasy remains inside the heads. The imaginary world in itself seemed a bit poor because of that, because of the film not really being a fantasy film, keeping the fantasy inside the head of its protagonist and reducing the spectrum of illusions (which are never directly opposed to the "realist" world). Overall, the film shows great academicism, not just by politely keeping the imaginary and the reality separated, but also by the decisions of the film-makers (the editing is gentle when it should be a bit punchier, the camera moves are scarce, the music is incredibly lame and boring, the camera angles are overall inexistent, etc).

I have no idea whether Del Toro will or will not provide better character depth and psychological progression in his next films, but it flaws the films he has made so far. Yes, there is a beautiful message, we've heard it before, of how monsters can be monsters on the inside and humans on the outside, while some monsters look like monsters and aren't all that bad after all. But until the characters and the story have a real depth and meaning to the audience, none of all the fantasy, violence or special effects will mean anything. The blunt reality as it is shown here, carries so much depression in it that the message of poetic escapism doesn't function in the end. The task is difficult to propel kids in wartime eras, it is even more difficult when fantasy takes part in it. Del Toro's next films will, hopefully, dig deeper into its characters.
Marvelous movie in which a bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into a creepy but captivating fantasy world and finds a strange Pan
Set in the not so tranquil Spanish woodlands of aftermath Spanish Civil War , where a small band of anti-fascism rebels are hiding out. Ofelia's love of fairy tales is obvious from the beginning of The Pan's labyrinth . When a widow marries an authoritarian Francoist captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez), her daughter goes to a countryside mansion . This is where Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) have come to live, in the company of the violent , brutal Capitán , Ofelia's new stepfather and soon to be father of her half-brother. The captain and his troops must fight Republican guerrillas of the hills and woods, that Ofelia finds her release and distraction of the new world order and its warring factions and delves into the older, mysterious and enchanting world of fairies , faun's and giant frogs . Ofelia becomes friend of the servant Mercedes (magnificent Maribel Verdu), who is the sister of one of the rebels and actually is giving support to the bunch . Ofelia takes refuge in a labyrinth , she finds in the grounds of his home, and in reveries involving Pan (Doug Jones, it took five hours to get into The Pale Man costume , once he was in it, he had to look out the nose holes to see where he was going) , who set three tasks she must overcome to take place as princess of a magical kingdom and in order to obtain immortality according to the legend . Meantime , resistance fighters plot their strategies in the nearest forest battling fascist troops .

This is a gorgeous , charming , graphic and deadly fairy tale . An exceptional picture for its inventive visuals , imagination and fantasy ; inspired partly by Goya's ¨Black Paintings¨ , including fantastic sequences parallel the reality . Sensational acting by Sergi Lopez as a cruel , unforgiving and totalitarian idealist Capitán Vidal . Versatile Sergi steals the spectacle as the monstrously sadistic officer bringing real menace to what might have been an absurd caricature . Wonderful and imaginative visual effects by DDT and magnificent special effects by Reyes Abades . The faun's legs were not computer-generated , Guillermo del Toro created a special system in which the actor's legs puppeteer the faun's fake ones , the actor's legs were later digitally removed . Impressive production design by Eugenio Caballero and rousing set design by Pilar Revuelta . The ruined town seen during the opening sequence of the film is the old town of Belchite Zaragoza, in Aragón, which was also used by Terry Gilliam for ¨Adventures barón Munchausen¨, the town was destroyed during the Spanish Civil War and never rebuilt. Sensitive as well as imaginative musical score by Javier Navarrete . Colorful and evocative cinematography by Guillermo Navarro , Del Toro's usual .

The motion picture was splendidly directed by Guillermo del Toro who even gave up his entire salary , including back-end points, to see this film become realized . In 2007, this film became one of the few fantasy films ever nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars . The film was hailed by critics and audiences alike, and del Toro decided to give Hollywood another try . Its fantastic assurance confirms Del Toro as one of contemporary cinema's most rewarding purveyors of fantasy such as demonstrated in his first big break ¨Cronos¨, and followed by ¨Hellboy¨, ¨Blade II¨ , ¨Mimic¨ ,¨The devil's backbone¨ and many others .
A Truly Modern Fairytale
Guillermo del Toro how to tell a real fairy tale. A fairy tale that isn't all princesses, princes, magical fairies and happy endings. It might have them, but the point that has been sanitised out of fairy tales over the last century or so is the fact that they were originally cautionary tales for children, handed down through generations of oral tradition to teach children what life is. And what is the one fact that children should learn as soon as possible? That life is nasty!

Laberinto del Fauno (titled Pan's Labyrinth here, though no mention is ever made to the faun in the film being Pan) is the story of Ofelia, a little girl forced to move with her pregnant mother to rural Spain to be near her step-father, a Captain in the fascist army during the Spanish Civil War. As she experiences first hand the horrors of war and fascism, she enters an ancient maze and meets a faun who tells her she is a lost Princess of an underground kingdom and must pass three tests to claim her place there.

I will admit that I went into this film expecting a nice, children friendly movie, but del Toro pulls no punches when it comes to the war, a war he experienced as a child. It's hard sometimes to decide what was more important to the director; Ofelia's story, or whether that was just a backdrop to highlight all the more the cruelty and brutality of the war.

There are no Indiana Jones style comedy Nazis here, the fascists are truly evil and we see it. Both the violence (which is just graphic enough to prevent us from being able to ignoring it without ever being gratuitous) and the mindsets of the people involved. What is more disturbing that any of the on screen actions is the attitude of 'pull the ladder up jack, I'm alright' of those who find themselves in privileged positions. Ariadna Gil, as Ofelia's mother showcases this perfectly. She knows full well what Vidal thinks of her only as a vessel for him unborn son, and that he probably killed Ofelia's father, but she never seems to resent him. Neither does she ever seem to love him. What you get is more a kind of relief, she knows that as long as he has a use for her she and her daughter are safe. It's purely self preservation, to know your place and survive, and that is more disturbing to me than anything else in the film.

Sometimes it's even almost as if Ofelia's quest is the subplot, as even fantastical tales of giant toads, fauns, a magical kingdom, the Pale Man (a horrific creature with it's eye in its hands) pale into insignificance when we're faced with the true life horrors that we see mankind inflict upon itself.

And that's one of the most interesting aspects of the story. Even as everything goes on around her, as the Civil War rages around her, her mothers life lies in Captain Vidal hands, what can the innocent do. Ofelia is not part of this world, she hasn't had a hand in creating it and she does not have a hand in affecting it's outcome. The faun and his quests are, to her at least, far more important as they are something that she is involved in, that are about her.

On the technical side this is a beautifully crafted film. The cinematography and sets are wonderful, never once setting a difference between the real and the fantasy. Both aspects of the film seem just as important to del Toro, some directors would have favoured one or the other sides of the story and that would have made the film unbalanced.

It's clearly influenced by many fairy tales, and a nice touch is, like many movie fairy tales, we never certain whether the fantasy is real. Is Ofelia really a lost princess from a magical kingdom, or are all her adventures and meetings purely from her imagination, one of the stories she tells to her unborn brother expanded to protect her from the nightmares of real life? What Guillermo del Toro has done with this film is to create a beautiful fairy tale masterpiece that harks back to the days when fairy tales were told around a fire to scare children, not read at bedtime to put them to sleep. But despite what I said earlier about this not being a children's film, take some to see it and I still think they'd enjoy it, even if it was from behind the cushion.
The best fantasy of the past decade
Everyone's been raving about this. My opinion doesn't differ too much. It did however suffer slightly from the overwhelmingly high expectations I'd developed based on how brilliant everyone said it was, and the whole "20min ovation at Cannes" thing. Really, who stands for that long? That said, it's an amazing work.

Skipping the plot recap (find the briefest synopsis you can if you need to be filled in), I'll go straight to the tech specs. I'm not a huge Del Toro fan, Cronos was interesting but lacked something for me. Mimic was dross. Hellboy was enjoyable and Ron Perlman is always great on screen. But here, the director really outdoes himself. By far. He has wrapped together some amazing elements and somehow maintains a balance, that doesn't tip into the mundane or the ridiculous for a moment. And this is no mean feat. The story is part historical drama, part fantasy, part family melodrama. When it dips out of the fantasy, it still enchants.

Sergi Lopez and Maribel Verdú really drive the story in the historical drama scenes. I haven't seen Lopez in anything other than a film called Lisbon, in which he played a character so completely opposite from the Captain. He is a fierce and terrifying guy but actually comes across as sympathetic in a couple of scenes. Verdu is incredible as Mercedes, the head housekeeper (or something) who is Ofelia's closest friend in the house. The scenes with these characters and the civil war subplot never fail to hold your attention. Ivana Baquero is excellent as the main character Ofelia, her performance is very mature and believable and she shares some beautiful scenes with her mother and Mercedes.

When the fairy tale elements return, it's astounding how naturally they fit into the story. I think that is the real magic of this film. The war drama and the fairy tale stem so naturally from each other.

One thing that most reviews haven't mentioned is the violence. I think it's been firmly established that this is an adult's fairytale, but at times it is a very intense and brutal film. There are a couple of scenes in particular which are very disturbing and difficult to watch. These do not distract from the tone and theme of the film however so they don't seem exploitative at all. If you are squeamish, it may get a bit much for you.

A final and obvious point I spose I can't get away without making: the set design, costumes and effects are superb. That's all.

I was perhaps expecting a little more fantasy, but the unique blend of genres is absolutely compelling. There wasn't a false note anywhere or a plot hole, which are too often present in fantasy films. I can't recall a good, original fantasy film from recent years. Fortunately this blows MirrorMask out of the water. It doesn't share any of the contrivances, vagueness or ineffectual characters with that film.

I just wish I'd seen it without already having read so much. I've tried very hard to not reveal any plot details at all as it does go to some surprising and unexpected places. Fortunately most of the reviews have done the same. I'd urge anyone with the chance to see it to do so immediately, and try not to read too much more.
A fey, beautiful and dark masterpiece
Set during Franco's mopping up exercise after the Spanish Civil War, Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth is a wonderful, dark fairy tale that, in a metaphor for Spain itself, teeters on the edge of nightmare dreamscapes of corruption, violence and the death of innocents.

This film is definitely not for young children. Although the fantasy sequences are gorgeously realised, and are fairy tales in the truest sense (in that they are dark, fey, dangerous and violent), most of the story (about three quarters of it, in fact) exists outside of the dreamland, in the even more frightening (and sometimes shockingly violent) world of a real life struggle of ideas and ideology.

Sergi Lopez is excellent as the brutal (and possibly sadistic) Falangist Captain tasked with routing out the remaining leftists from the woods and hills of Northern Spain. Into this precarious situation come his new wife (a widow of a former marriage, who is carrying his son) and his stepdaughter Ofelia (played to absolute perfection, by the then 11 year old, Ivana Baquero).

Uncomfortable with her new surroundings, suspicious of her stepfather and desperately concerned about the worsening condition of her mother, Ofelia uncovers a strange alternative world, and the chance to escape forever the pain and uncertainty of her everyday life.

Thus the film alternates between the world of Civil War Spain and the increasingly bizarre, dark and frightening world of the Pan's Labyrinth. As the twin plots progress, they intertwine, with the tasks of Ofelia becoming the choices faced by a Spain at the crossroads. The poignancy of the film lies partly in the fact that the victories of the child are reflected so starkly by the failures of the adult world.

Apparently Pan's Labyrinth won a 20-minute standing ovation at Cannes, when it was shown. This may be a little bit over the top. I suspect when the furore has died down some will choose to swing the pendulum back and criticise it for its more obvious faults. Much of the film is derivative. There are few ideas in the film's magical dreamworld that haven't been seen before. There are also few ideas in the film's depiction of the Civil War that can't be read in Satre or Orwell; can't be viewed in Picasso's Guernica; or can't be watched in Land and Freedom.

For all the evident truth of these observations, to accept them would be to entirely miss the majesty of Pan's Labyrinth, which doesn't lie in its originality but its absolute mastery of execution. People will watch Pan's Labyrinth in a way that most won't watch Land and Freedom. In doing so, they will also discover a world of fairy tales which existed before Disney sunk its claws into them: a dangerous world, where nothing is as it seems and every step is a possible death – a place which may leave even adults shivering under the duvet, part in terror, part in wonder. And all this backed up by the finest cinematography I've seen.

The only real faults I am prepared to allow for this film is a slight tendency (particularly at the end) for a Narnia-like moralism, and the fact that the faun is, perhaps, is not quite wild enough! These are eminently forgivable, though. This is easily the best film I've seen this year, and a must see on the big screen.
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