Before I begin this review I just want to say that Guillermo del Toro you some how read this, please make that Monster adaptation for HBO! Please.
Ok, so Pan’s Labyrinth a.k.a El Laberinto del Fauno or Faun’s Labyrinth is a 2006 Spanish movie written and directed by Guillermo del Toro who I hope one day will do that HBO version of Monster which is a kick-ass anime but enough on that. Pan’s Labyrinth is a very dark fairy that mixes the 1940’s political climate of Spain with a girl quest to free her soul through a fairy.
The movie follows a young girl named Ofelia as she moves with her pregnant mother to live with her new step father, a sadistic captain in the country. There Ofelia encounters fairy-like creature who bring her into a nearby labyrinth where she meets, Faun, an ancient half-human half goat creature. Faun tells her that she is a the reincarnation of Princess Moanna, who once lived underground in a land with no pain or sorrow. One Moanna went up to the human world and forget everything and died. Faun tells her she must perform three task so her soul can be returned.
While Ofelia tries to accomplish her tasks, the captain has to deal with rebels one of whom works as maid, Mercedes. Ofelia first task to get a key from a frog who lives under a dying tree. Before the second task Faun gives Ofelia a mandrake root to aid her mother which works.
For the second task Ofelia is given magical chalk that can create passageways. She has to enter the abode of the Pale Man to retrieve an item. She is told to not eat any of the food at the Pale Man’s table. She uses the key she got from the frog’s belly to find a dagger. However she breaks the rules and eats two grapes. This awaken the very creepy Pale Man who kills two out the three fairies and nearly gets Ofelia. Ofelia tells Faun about what happens and tells her that she can never return.
The evil Captain finds the mandrake root and is mad and Ofelia’s mother burns it only to go into labour and dies giving birth to Ofelia’s brother. Ofelia and Mercedes try to escape but the captain catches them. Mercedes is nearly interrogated but she gets away. Ofelia is locked in her room. Faun comes to Ofelia and tells he will give her one last chance but she must not question him. She must bring her baby brother to the labyrinth and Faun gives her some chalk to help her get out of the room.
Ofelia gets her little brother but the captain sees her and goes after her. The rebels attack and when the go into Ofelia’s room all the see is the chalk door. Ofelia maged to get to the center of the labyrinth where Faun tells her that the blood of her brother must spill to open the portal. Ofelia refuses and Faun leaves her. The Captain shows up takes the baby and shots Ofelia.
As the captain leaves the labyrinth he meets the rebels who kill him and take the baby. Mercedes goes to a dying Ofelia. Ofelia then see her King father and Queen mother as Princess Moanna in the underground kingdom. Faun tells her that her final test was not allowing the innocent blood of her brother to flow for her sake.
The question that most people ask about this movie is was were the fantasy elements real or not. There seems to be indication that it was both true as Ofelia did get out her lock room, the mandrake worked, her getting to the center of labyrinth magically and the flower blooming from the dead tree. However when the captain saw Ofelia in the labyrinth talking with Faun, the captain didn’t see Faun. This might mean it’s not true but the Captain was a horrible person so I wouldn’t go by his perspective. Really it’s up to the viewer to make the call if the fairy tale Ofelia lives and dies for is real or her imagination to escape her reality.
While I really like this movie I have a huge problem with it, the real world issue and the fairy tale element competing for importance. Most of this movie is a cartoony fascist being a villain peppered with Ofelia doing her fairy tale JRPG quests. The real world fascist such vs the rebels does give the fairy tale parts more poignance and there were handled well together but I feel like they were two different movie ideas that got combined. Maybe if was more fantasy less horrible fascist it would have been better because the dark fairy tale part were more interesting. Or if the real world character were not so black and white, the captain was clearly evil and Mercedes was clearly good.
However this movie isn’t about characters, it’s more of a mood piece. It creates a dark world paired with a harsh reality. None of the characters are that deep or have have compelling motivation but the technicals more than make up for it. Faun and the Pale Man are really amazing and the dark richness of the sets draw the viewer into the movie world. The CG work isn’t as glorious but it could have been worse. Also the lullaby melody is so beautiful.
Pan’s Labyrinth is a intoxicating movie that combines a beautiful dark fairy tale with the horrors of reality, though because the fairy part were more interesting I wish the movie had more of those scene than that cartoonish villain being a jerk.