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4.4 out of 5 stars
Pan's Labyrinth [DVD] [2006]
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 5 March 2011
Though many when it first came out thought Pan's Labyrinth was just going to be a dark fairytale, a little bit Tim Burton-esque but nothing too bad, they were horrified about what they actually found the film to be like. In truth, children under the age certificate and those of a weak stomach should steer well clear of this film but those with a taste for true Del Toro films are more than likely to revel in this cinematic masterpiece. The tone of the film is relentlessly dark and brutal, the characters brilliantly portrayed by an outstanding cast with a storyline worthy of the highest praise. 'Pan's Labyrinth' has been masterfully done and deserves all the recognition it received and more - a definite five-star film.
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99 of 109 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 11 February 2007
The idea of a child escaping from the misery of the oppressive, adult world into a fantasy land of fairy tales, monsters and legends is as old as storytelling. The success of the Harry Potter series and the recent cinema remake of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is testament to the desire of all ages to escape from the humdrum into fantastical worlds. Even Lord of the Rings sees the Hobbits take on a heroic quest away from their normal lives. Cinema in an age of exquisite computer graphics is perfectly suited to giving visual representation to the imaginations of even the most vivid and creative of souls.

And few people would have as creative or daring an imagination as the director behind Pan's Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno) Guillermo Del Toro. The vicious backdrop to the fantasy is the fisling, futile end of the Spanish Civil War. With Franco's forces victorious across Spain, the Republican forces are forced into remote areas, in to the forests and into hiding. The heroine of the story is Ofelia (Baquero), whose mother is heavily pregnant with the son of her step-father, the wicked Commandant grittily played by López.

The Commandant is posted to a rural area, and charged with rooting out and destroying the rebel forces. He has called for his wife and her daughter to be by his side, as it is proper for a son to be born in the same place as his father. It soon becomes clear that the ruthlessness and cruelty which has allowed the Commandant to forge a successful military career in civil war ravaged Spain is played out in his family life. His wife is firmly under his control, and the whimsical and dreaming step-daughter is terrified into compliance.

Against the backdrop of attacks, brutal army control and oppressive adults, Ofelia reverts to the fairy-tales she loves. She is chastised by her mother for bringing a bulging satchel of books, and soon finds herself in the middle of a real fairytale. She discovers she is the daughter of the king of the underworld, and must undertake three tasks set by the fawn of the title.

The world dreamt by Guillermo Del Toro is fantastical, richly and darkly portrayed and ultimately dreadfully gothic. It is a fairytale hewn from the richest traditions of the Brothers Grimm and the dark forests of a primeval Europe. The fawn is at turns kindly and then devil like in intensity. The tasks Ofelia must undertake are dangerous and bring her into even more fantastic worlds.

The genius of this film is not to allow Ofelia to abandon the real, adult world to pursue the fantasy adventures. Instead the horrible reality of her situation continues to grind on, making her escape into the fantasy even more urgent until it reaches its complete and tragic conclusion.

This is not a light fairytale, or something suitable for children. The Commandants brutality is illustrated in graphic scenes of `justice' meted out to the rebels. He is not shy of torture, and whilst this is not demonstrated as in films like Hostel, the build up is somehow yet more disturbing. The rebels are brutal in turn, and such gore actually saw me hiding behind fingers. At the same time the more horrific characters hewn from Del Toro's imagination, most notably the child-eater, are truly terrifying.

Dark, twisted and ultimately stunning, this film marries the horrific fairy-tale fantasy with the horrors of war to dazzling, stunning effect. This is a tour de force by a film maker who hopefully has many more spectacles left to share.
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51 of 56 people found the following review helpful
I bought this film a while ago, but only just got round to watching it this evening. It is incredibly good - probably one of the best films I've ever seen.

For those expecting some kind of Disney-esque fairy tale or a pure fantasy film, you will be disappointed since this is far more in the vein of fairy tales as they were originally - cautionary tales or lurking danger. It is hard hitting and graphically violent, very much depicting the vicious reality of the Spanish Civil War and the brutality of the Franco regime. Nevertheless, it is a gripping tale of perils to be overcome, both real and fantastical, by the young protagonist, Ofelia. Disturbing, moving and unpredictable it is a film I would recommend to anyone who doesn't mind their reality painted in flesh and blood colour and their fantasy a little on the dark side.

Be warned, I am surprised this film got a 15 rating - it is not for the faint of heart and not one that I'd describe as a popcorn or family film by any stretch of the imagination!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 23 March 2007
Don't be put off by the fact that this is a Spanish Language film, within 5 minutes I was so engrossed in the film I completely forgot to notice I was reading subtitles. The titles themselves are very well done, they are paced perfectly and convey the mood of the scenes just right.

This isn't a film for children by any means, it's quite graphic and violent in parts, but I found that only strengthed the fantasy side of it. I feel Guillermo Del Toro wanted to show the juxtaposition between the violence of the adult world against the beauty and innocence of the childs - much like his other film (Devils Backbone).

I was left stunned and speechless by this film - its perhaps the best thing I've seen this year by a long way.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
This movie is not at all for children or those who dislike major violence. Of all the movies that Guillermo del Toro has made I'm guessing this is the personal one for him. I heard him saying on TV that when he was a kid he'd imagine the floor to his bedroom opening up and a creature coming out and having a conversation with him. That's pretty much what Ofelia goes through in this movie as she resorts to a fantasy world where strange creatures send her on a magical journey to regain her royal title. A very simple fairy tale told by one of our greatest filmmakers.

While the movie closely follows Ofelia's tasks, spoken to her by a magic book from Pan, it is mostly about the war, double agents (Maribel Verdú and Álex Angulo), and the Captain's near-obsession with his expected son. The battles are extremely brutal and made me queazy a couple of times. So brutal are these deaths, in fact, that you'll be relieved to see a simple shot to the head or back.

The acting is top-notch, and I like to say that young Ivana Baquero has a huge and brilliant future ahead of her. One of the great aspects to the movie is how much scarier the people in the real world are than any strange creature from another fantasy world and none do it better than Sergi Lopez who plays the evil Capitan. He does a great job of playing in a suave sophisticated way that rivals that great job that Ralph Fiennes did with his character in "Schindler's List". He's pure evil packaged in clean cut way and doesn't have the slightest hesitation to killing anyone. It's really interesting that in a movie filled with strange creatures like a giant toad and a pale man with no eyes, the most frightening person would be a regular man with no conscious. The animation is phenomenal, but not nearly as breathtaking as the costumes or scenery. The labyrinth itself just takes all the breath out of you when you see it at night for the first time. The "pale man" (also played by Doug Jones), is by far the most terrifying creature in the movie, most-likely to give even the most mature and grown-up adults shivers. Faun (Doug Jones) who is the creature that gives Ofelia all her assignments is also great with his goat looking self. I really wish there were more scenes with him in the movie but I guess the budget wouldn't allow for that.

Yes, this movie does have sub-titles, but it's hardly noticeable at first, so much so that you forget about them by the tragic end of the movie. "Pan's Labyrinth" is frightening and sad to the extreme, but it also gives you a sense of hope that magic does, in fact, exist. This is one of the most astonishing adult fairy tales I've seen in a long time.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 20 February 2007
I saw this in the cinema in Spain and was blown away. A mix of Spanish history blended with fairytale and you can't ask for any more. The acting is superb and special effects awesome. I hope there is a special edition released...

If you haven't seen this in the cinema it is well worth buying on dvd although if you get the chance to see it on the big screen do so as a small tv screen won't do this magnificent film justice!

One tip, try not to watch trailers before seeing this movie...
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 15 June 2011
This 2007 film from Guillermo del Toro is one of the best films of that decade. Set in Spain in 1944, the story focuses on Ofelia, a young girl who is forced to live with her stepfather, a commander in Franco's army and her heavily pregnant mother who is gravely ill. Ofelia is obsessed with fairy stories, embracing them as an escapist route away from the horrors that are going on around her.

The story then switches its focus between the worlds of real life horror and the fairy world, which it turns out is not all sweetness and light. Thus del Toro gives us a juxtaposition which really asks: which is the most horrific? There is the overhanging question of whether or not Ofelia's fairy world is an alternative reality or whether it is nothing more than a figment of her imagination. I do have a view on this, though it is not necessary to include that here.

The film is beautifully shot and well crafted. Though it does contain some scenes that are likely to induce a wince (and I am thinking particularly of a leg being amputated) it is never graphic in its violence, and never gratuitous. A word has to be said for the cast too. The young girl who plays Ofelia is never anything less than totally believable, while the actor who plays her stepfather is fantastic in his portrayal of a villain who wants to pass on his own legacy to his son, whilst trying to forget the memory of his own father. The rest of the support they get in the film is fantastic too.

It goes back to the heart of fairy stories, which were not for children, and this demonstrates that as Ofelia is a child inhabiting a world in which she does not belong, and which she seeks to ultimately escape.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 20 June 2008
This is a dark but thoroughly entertaining and gripping tale that will have you rivited. I won't spoil the ending and therefore will say no more about this other than it shows a dark and sinister side of a small conflict within the Spanish Civil war and the consequences for those involved. It is told through the eyes of a child as she experiences it as a modern fairy tale. See it and marvel at film making at its best. You will need a hanky.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 3 March 2007
what a brilliant film. the fairy tale sets are based on the paintings of goya, the reality is based on the horror of the spanish civil war. which is more scarey? for the little girl, presumably the reality, as she invents the netherworld to cope with the terror in her real life. it deals with the same themes as spirit of the beehive, but obviously this child is far more imaginative, and she doesnt have that annoying older sister to keep her in check, and, after all, she is a princess, albeit one from under the ground! if you are reading these reviews you obviously want to see this film..its horrible, beautiful, memorable, sad yet redemtive..why dont you just buy it and see for yourself...? trust me, you must see this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 27 March 2010
The plot idea can be summed up as watching a little girl escape from the brutal world around her into her own fantasies.

In Pan's Labyrinth the harsh environment is a battle between a guerrilla group and a military regime in rural Spain. The much needed comfort of home is equally harsh as her heavily pregnant mother becomes increasingly ill and her captain stepfather increasingly cold-blooded. Although not the most violent film ever the non fantasy parts of the film do not hold back and it tries to keep an air of warts and all realism and brutality.

The fantasy world the girl escapes into is very old school European. Full of strange and unfamiliar creatures in a dangerous overgrown and easy to get lost into landscape. It is much weirder than a bunch of goblins and fairies down the bottom of the garden. As with old school fairy tales, death and danger are allot more apparent than as witnessed in modern cotton wool wrapped cartoons.

The film is very beautiful, thought provoking, cruel and sorrowful. I think it is truly brilliant. However it will not be to everyone's taste:There are subtitles, creatures with parts in strange places, no car chases, no toilet humor, no whimsical romances and no catchphrases.
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