In 1944 fascist 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.
In a word, Pan’s Labyrinth is captivating. From the opening scene you are drawn into Ofelia’s world of history and fantasy. It is a movie with cautious pacing – slow but in a way that reels you in with the promise of more.
Fascist Spain was a fascinating setting for the movie. Freedom fighters, double agents, sadistic captains and battle scenes abound. For me, it was a brief window into a time period I didn’t know about. There are no over the top glorious war scenes; the movie feels real with just the right amount of grittiness and a focus on the story rather than the actors. Some scenes are quite gruesome, hence the R rating.
The fantasy world is in complete contrast to the carefully constructed wartime atmosphere with its almost whimsical feel. I was reminded of Alice in Wonderland minus all the madness. Ofelia’s quest is extremely entertaining and the young heroine is certainly memorable. The Oscar’s the movie won for art direction and makeup were definitely well deserved. Pan’s Labyrinth also won for cinematography so it’s a visually gorgeous film to boot.
Pan’s Labyrinth definitely messes with your head. By the end you aren’t really sure what the truth is and have a million questions bouncing around in your mind. I’m still not quite sure what I watched. I definitely recommend it though – it is one of those movies that is worth seeing.
Other movies by producer Guillermo del Toro: