51 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Plunge into a dark but incredible fantasy journey,
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Pan's Labyrinth (2 Disc Set)  [DVD] (DVD)
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.