In a time where mediocrity seems to be ruling cinema, I began to forget what it was like to see a truly magical film, one that leaves you dreaming about it when you sleep, thinking about it at work the next day and obsessing over it on the Internet. It has been a long time, a very long time- so long in fact I forgot what this feeling was like! After Guillermo del Toro astonished me with DEVIL’S BACKBONE years ago, I was constantly disappointed with his other films (MIMIC, BLADE 2, HELLBOY) and was left wondering if Hollywood had drained all of the magic out of his soul. It appears to me that Hollywood was hindering his abilities because PAN’S LABYRINTH is a masterpiece, an ultimate classic film that will forever embraced as one of the greatest cinematic fantasies ever told.
PAN’S LABYRINTH is a fanciful and chilling story set against the backdrop of a fascist regime in 1944 rural Spain. The film centers on Ofelia, a lonely and dreamy child living with her mother and adoptive father; a military officer tasked with ridding the area of rebels. In her loneliness, Ofelia creates a world filled with fantastical creatures and secret destinies. With post-war repression at its height, Ofelia must come to terms with her world through a fable of her own creation.
What makes this film work so well is the reflection between Ofelia’s world and real life. Ofelia makes mistakes, and pays for them, but she also succeeds by breaking some of the rules. Her world is created to escape the harsh reality of it all, and even within the world she is learning lessons. This fairy tale is grim as much as it is mystifying and we see both of these worlds through Ofelia’s eyes.
The real world portrays Fascism as the real terror, which is why this film truly is a horror film. There’s nothing more terrifying than real-life terror, such as the news or historical moments like World War II. The Spanish Civil War might not have been as catastrophic, but nearly a million people were killed during the war. Watching what some of these evil men were like makes you sick to your stomach- they are worse than the devil himself.
Ofelia’s world, which is extremely gothic and dark, is one of the most wonderful, extraordinary and fascinating creations I have ever seen. What you’ll see are some of the most imaginative creations to ever grace the big screen – fans of LABYRINTH might just have to throw the movie away after getting PAN’S on DVD. But don’t let the fantasy throw you off, there are lessons to be learned and you really should take the time to let them touch you.
PAN’S LABYRINTH is timeless, touching, moving, stunning, shocking, appalling, violent and superb in every way shape and form. Del Toro has delivered perfection, which is a rare treat in this half-assed world of filmmaking and studio designed features. If there was ever a fairy tale for adults, this is it and I don’t see anything better coming along for a few decades. Treasure your first viewing experience because it’ll never feel quite as amazing as it does the first time around.