Tonight I went to a PGA screening of the new film by Guillermo del Toro, Pan’s Labyrinth. The film is Spain’s official submission for the Best Foreign Language Oscar, and is a fairy tale set in 1944 Franco-occupied Spain. Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) is a young girl who moves with her mother to live with her step-father, Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez), in the northern region of Spain. Her mother is pregnant with Vidal’s child, and Ofelia doesn’t want to live with Vidal at the old mill. Vidal and his men are trying to quell a guerilla uprising in the woods, and Ofelia discovers an old labyrinth behind the mill.
One night, a fairy arrives and leads Ofelia into the labyrinth where she meets a faun, who tells her that she is the reincarnated soul of the daughter of the King of the Underworld, and she has to return to her world by completing three tasks. Meanwhile, we learn of Vidal’s cruelty and penchant for torturing the rebels he catches – and he has a traitor in his midst. Fantasy and reality begin to collide as Ofelia ries to complete her tasks and return to her father in the Underworld.
I really enjoyed the film’s visual style and the idea of merging a World War II scenario with classic fairytale elements was very nice to see. Each task brings Ofelia closer to her goal, but gets more and more risky. One thing that bugged me about this film was that it really didn’t need to be rated R, to tell the story that it was telling. Basically, the graphic violence seemed unnecessary. The music by Javier Navarrete was dreamlike and effective, with a lovely lullaby melody, and the visual effects were produced by CafeFX, and are pretty good, but it’s all about the visual style more than anything.
I can easily recommend this film, but it has excessive and unnecessary graphic violence, so that takes it down a small notch in my book. Still, it’s worth looking into – especially if you like fairy tales.