Cast: Ivana Baquero, Maribel Verdu, Ariadna Gil, Sergi Lopez, Alex Angulo, Roger Casamajor, Doug Jones, Pablo Adam
Rating: R for graphic violence and some language
Runtime: 112 minutes
Welcome to Spain in 1944! Ofelia (Baquero) is dreading the trip she is taking with her pregnant mother, Carmen (Gil). The pair is moving to a rural part of the Spanish countryside to live with the harsh Captain Vidal (Lopez), Carmen’s new husband. It’s not a peaceful transition, as the remote area is a base for Vidal’s military team who are fighting rebel forces entrenched deep in the nearby area.
Ofelia immediately dislikes the cruel nature of the Captain but finds solace in a friendship with Mercedes (Verdu), who not only works as the main housekeeper and nurse but, with the assistance of the local Dr. Ferreiro (Angulo) is aiding the resistance. Mercedes’ brother, Pedro (Casamajor), it’s revealed, is the leader of the rebel forces.
Although she’s intent on caring for her increasingly ill mother, Ofelia’s true adventure begins when a fairy that she had previously seen while in route to the house awakens her one night and beckons her to follow him/her to a nearby labyrinth. Once inside the labyrinth she meets a faun a.k.a. Pan (Jones and voice of Adam) who reveals to her that she is really the long lost Princess Moanna who once lived in a kingdom far under the earth. Having escaped and now living in the form of a human, the only way Princess Moanna can return to the underworld is to complete three tasks to prove she is not mortal. The catch? The tasks have to be completed before the full moon.
The faun gives Ofelia a magic book that reveals her tasks. The first task involves a giant toad that dwells inside of a dying fig tree. Ofelia must place three stones in the toad’s mouth and retrieve a key hidden inside of it. Although she completes the task, Ofelia must deal with her mother’s anger when she ruins her new dress in the process.
The second task doesn’t go as smoothly when Ofelia must retrieve a dagger that resides in the realm of the Pale Man (also played by Jones). Warned by the faun not to eat or drink anything on the Pale Man’s overflowing banquet table, Ofelia gives in to temptation with disastrous results. Meanwhile the fighting between Captain Vidal and the rebel forces intensifies while Ofelia’s mother becomes sicker. Will Ofelia be allowed to prove that she really is Princess Moanna and be able to save her mother? You’ll have to watch “Pan’s Labyrinth” to find out!
I’d been looking forward to seeing this movie for quite a while and it was all that I expected and then some! The story was original and creative and the creatures such as Pan (the faun) and the Pale Man were extremely unique. (In the Pale Man’s case, just downright creepy!) The cast was also great and not only drew you completely into the story but kept your interest throughout. You actually cared what happened to these characters.
There were two things about the film that I really liked. Director Guillermo del Toro (who was also the man behind the camera for such films as “Hellboy” and “Blade II”), created two separate stories (the wartime atmosphere with Vidal and his men fighting the rebels and the adventures of Ofelia trying to prove she’s Princess Moanna) that seemed to “mesh together” throughout. I also liked the “either/or” aspect of what was happening with Ofelia. You’re never told for sure whether what’s happening with Ofelia is real or if the girl has a vividly active imagination that she’s using to deflect the reality of the horrors around her. The filmmakers leave this entirely up to the person watching the movie.
There was plenty of action as well as tense moments throughout the film. Some of my favorites have to be the two tasks Ofelia completes when she encounters the toad in the tree as well as trying to escape the Pale Man. There’s also the incident with Mercedes when Captain Vidal realizes that she’s working with the rebel forces.
The only thing I can think of that I would have liked to have seen would have been more of an explanation of what the Pale Man was. We see a few pictures on the wall depicting him but not much more. Also, a fair warning to those of you who don’t like subtitles: the movie is in Spanish with English subtitles. But don’t be wary about this! It doesn’t detract from the movie at all.
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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