I am a huge fan a foreign films, but I have a certain weak spot for Spanish films in particular. I also can not understand why some people dislike watching a film in it’s original language with subtitles, because, personally, I wouldn’t watch them any other way. I also think that many foreign horror/ fantasy movies are *that* much better than most American ones. Pan’s Labyrinth is the film I most frequently use as an example when explaining this point of view to people. 

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At the Cannes Film Festival it received a 22 minute standing ovation.

It is a dark fantasy film set in Franco Spain, not long after the Spanish Civil war. In a way it acts as a sister movie to Guillermo del Toro’s 2001 film, ‘The Devil’s Backbone’, which has similar themes, but was set during the civil war. The story follows a young girl, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), who’s pregnant mother has married Captain Vidal (Sergi Lópex), a terrifyingly brutal Falange officer. They move to be with him, where his men are stationed at an old mill to hunt out any anti-Franco rebels. Ofelia is led to an ancient labyrinth by a strange stick-insect creature, and eventually encounters a mysterious faun who tells her that she is in fact a princess who must complete three tasks to make sure that her ‘essence is intact’. The idea for this film came from director Del Toro’s recurring nightmare as a child, where a faun would gradually step out from behind the grandfather’s clock. Weird. 

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In the film the faun was never actually referred to as ‘Pan’

My love for this film really knows no bounds, everything from the beautiful storyline which reveals war through the eyes of a child to the amazing soundtrack by Javier Navarrete which makes me shiver when I hear it. Why do I love this film so much? It is just a very beautiful yet brutal film that really must be watched.

The characters are excellently portrayed by excellent actors. Sergi López playing Captain Vidal will forever be, in my mind, one of the most evil characters I have ever seen. The producers doubted that López, who was well known for his comedic roles, would ever be able to pull off such a dark character, but he certainly managed it. He is shown to be precise, dark and without mercy. In one scene he tortures a rebel so brutally that I could not even look at the screen. He has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and shows a complete disregard for his new family. The only reason they are with him is because he wants to be there when his child, who he is convinced will be a son, is born.

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Apparently he’s sad that he only got 2 bottles…

 

Ivana Baquero plays Ofelia, a character who Del Toro initially imagined to be younger. However, when Baquero auditioned, he changed the screenplay to accommodate her age. Ofelia seems almost completely unaware of the chaos outside of her little fantasy world, but pieces of it seep into the magical land she uncovers in different forms. Maribel Verdú plays Mercedes, Vidal’s housekeeper who is also working with the rebels. She is, in my view, one of the most sympathetic characters as she becomes very maternal to Ofelia after her mother dies, and feels like a coward for working for Vidal. You feel sorry for her, and you also root for her to leave with the rebels. Finally, Doug Jones plays both the faun and the creepy Pale Man. Jones could not speak Spanish so the voice of the faun was dubbed over with the voice of Pablo Adán. His tale, skinny frame meant it added more eeriness and supernatural look to both characters

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Ofelia is a book worm

Although initially you would assume that the faun is on Ofelia’s side, he seems very sinister and you wonder wether or not he is doing these things in Ofelia’s best interests. He seems to age backwards in the film, at the very beginning he struggles to move and is covered in bark, he seems old and decrepit. Towards the end of the film, he moves with ease and part of him which looked broken before look fixed. The colouring between the two worlds also change; there are more reds and oranges in the fantasy world in which she encounters fairies, a giant toad and the Pale Man (who is one of the scariest monsters in film), whereas the real world is much colder and darker with blues, greens and greys. 

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I spy with my little eye…

The ending made me cry. I know… it makes me sound like a complete wuss, but the mix of beautiful camera shots and music was very emotional and the acting was just stunning. I have already seen this movie at least six times, and I intend to watch is again in the future. I think that the language is also mystical and incredible to listen to, and adds to the magical feel of the film.

Verdict: One of my favourite films which I will never tire of, an incredible mix of the vicious real world and the magical world inside of a child’s head… or is it? Well worth a watch. 5/5

 

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