Archive Review: Pans Labyrinth (2006)

This is another one of those films that looks like it should be for kids, but once you start watching it, you learn very quickly this is way too dark for kids.

Certificate: 15

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Screenwriter: Guillermo del Toro

Starring: Ivana Baquero, Ariadna Gil, Sergi López

Genre: Drama, Fantasy

Runtime: 118 Minutes

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Reviewed by: Pearl

In 1944 Falangist Spain, a girl, fascinated with fairy-tales, is sent along with her pregnant mother to live with her new stepfather, a ruthless captain of the Spanish army. During the night, she meets a fairy who takes her to an old faun in the centre of the labyrinth. He tells her she’s a princess, but must prove her royalty by surviving three gruesome tasks. If she fails, she will never prove herself to be the true princess and will never see her real father, the king, again. – From IMDB

A film with whimsical fairy tale elements and a highly developed fantasy world, how magical and delightful right? Wrong!  This film is not cute, or whimsical, it is in a word, terrifying.  Don’t let the fact that the main character is a child, and mentions of fairies trick you into thinking that this is an OK film to show your eight year old cousin.  This film is thinly veiled nightmare fuel, especially the monsters that Ophelia has to defeat.  The Pale Man being the real stuff of nightmares. 

While elements of The Pale Man and The Faun are CGI, mostly the legs, a good deal of it is actually just a person in a really elaborate costume and makeup, making it even more creepy.  That poor child was actually being chased around by someone that looked like that, rather than just faking it and it being filled in later by CG.  The Toad is CG, and it is the only part of the film that shows it’s age, with the graphics being way below the standard of what we expect today.  But for the relatively short amount of time that it is on screen, the dodgy effects don’t really mean much.

There are about a million blog posts that will go in depth about the metaphors and meanings behind this film.  But the film hits hardest if you view it in it’s most simple form.  This is a film about choice.  About right and wrong.  Ophelia makes all of her choices based on her own intuition and with what she can live with, rather than doing exactly as she is told.  She offers her own blood instead of that of her baby brother for example.  And this message is mirrored in the resistance fighters in the woods, fighting for their freedom rather than blindly following the fascist regime.  We could wax lyrical for hours about all the hidden messages and meanings, but I prefer to enjoy this film for it’s story.

This film is wacky and unsettling, it will make you cringe and make you angry.  It has some of the most beautiful fantast visuals and introduces some of the most recognisable characters in cinema.  It is definitely one that everyone should watch, but this is not your average Disney fairy tale.

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