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Very beautiful movie, it went directly on my list of favorite movies.
Pan's Labyrinth is best described as a fairy tale that isn't all that kid friendly. Some imagery is pretty frightening, the film has a very dark and depressing vibe. There are also some pretty brutal scenes that you won't forget. It's the kind of movie you show your kid if you want them to be haunted by it forever.
The thing is though, Guillermo del Toro has created a perfect fairy tale. Pan's Labyrinth is set in the real world with a fantasy world that exists alongside it. The story deals with a princess, fantastical beings and magic but never does any of it actually feel fake. That's one of the great things about Pan's Labyrinth. These elements can be explained by the main character's imagination or indeed real as Ofelia sees them. The decision rests with the viewer.
It's 1944 and Spain is embroiled in a another conflict five years after the Spanish Civil War. There are rebels who oppose current dictator Fransisco Franco and Captain Vidal (Sergi López) is in charge of a camp attempting to exterminate any dissent. Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) arrives to the camp with her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) who recently got married to Vidal. This was done mostly because of circumstance following the death of Ofelia's father. A little beyond the camp, Ofelia meets Fauno (Doug Jones) in the middle of a labyrinth who proclaims her to be the princess in another world. She must complete three tasks and she will be allowed to take her place in this kingdom.
The story is really the centerpiece of Pan's Labyrinth. There always seems to be some kind of problem while Ofelia tries to accomplish her tasks and hardly anyone that she can every truly trust. Captain Vidal is a nightmare of a man who doesn't care for Ofelia one bit so she can't turn to him. All he cares about is the son that Carmen will give birth to. Even the Faun who says that she's a princess is suspicious and probably untrustworthy. Little hints here and there prod you as a viewer in a certain direction without ever being 100% sure of anything until the very end and it's just glorious.
For a fantasy movie, never do the CGI elements become overbearing. With a combination of makeup, costumes, animatronics and CGI, del Toro has created some beautiful designs without going overboard. The human characters are very much the main stars of Pan's Labyrinth and are supplemented very nicely by the fantasy elements. Doug Jones in his dual role is unrecognizable as anything resembling a human being. All of the sets where the story takes place are also extremely well done and believable.
One thing I really like about Pan's Labyrinth is how the actions of Ofelia in her fantasy world have a real impact on the real world. It adds a certain amount of additional danger and always makes you feel ill at ease for what the possible consequences will be when she goes back to the real world.
Pan's Labyrinth is mildly violent on a couple of occasions but that's not to say that anything is glorified. What makes the violence seem worse is how calmly brutal the violent scenes really are. Captain Vidal is without a doubt the main reason for this and Sergi López deserves a lot of credit for his portrayal. A lot of the time though, when something that would be gory is about to happen, the scene cuts which in a sense makes things worse because you're left imagining what will happen.
del Toro has written an absolutely beautiful story that has the right combination of fantasy and real life. It's not an easy movie to watch for how much powerful it is but one that is worth watching even for those who aren't used to watching foreign movies. The great thing is that the subtitles are of extremely good quality because del Toro wrote them himself which isn't a common thing to do for filmmakers. It's his movie 100% and it's one that will leave a lasting impression on you. Although I'm hoping for another Hellboy movie, I hope that del Toro thinks about pursuing some sort of fairy tale like Pan's Labyrinth again. Just some sort of spiritual successor and I would be a happy camper.
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