Pan's Labyrinth is a classic tale of good versus evil, told in a disturbingly beautiful way.  The story takes place during the end of the Spanish revolution; in the hills where the revolutionaries are hiding and being aided by sympathizers in nearby towns.  The Spanish army has taken up outposts to eek out supplies in the form of ever-dwindling rations to the good town folks and to try to squeeze out and destroy the enemy.  The heroine, a 12 year old named Ofelia and played by Ivana Baquero, is relocated to one of these outposts with her mother who has married the cruel outpost commander, "the Captain", and who is pregnant with the Captain's son.
    Ofelia is a fanciful child.  She still reads fairy tales, especially one of a princess from the underworld who has gotten lost in the bright sunlight of this world.  In the fairytale, the princess' father has set up doors to portals in an attempt to find his daughter, one of which is in a labyrinth in the same area as the outpost.  Ofelia hates the outpost and, as an escape from her surroundings, follows a fairy and makes her way toward the center of the labyrinth.
    As is the case in all 'good versus evil' movies, Ofelia must prove her goodness.  This means accomplishing three muddy, miserable, and very scary tasks.  Whether these mystical events actually happen in the real world, or only exist in the mind of this frightened child, is skillfully left for the viewer to decide.
    In the real world, Ofelia makes a friend in the character of Mercedes, who heads the Captain's household servant staff.  Meanwhile, the Captain, mad with power and rage toward the rebels, cares only about the coming birth of a son to carry on his name and glory.  Evil is graphically, brutally portrayed through the actions of the Captain.  There is nothing redeeming in his character that would generate any sort of sympathy for the man. 
    Although essentially a fairy tale, this movie is not for children, not for the faint of heart, and not for those who get nightmares from graphically violent movies.  Pan's Labyrinth is much in the fashion of art akin to illustrated texts of the lives of saints, martyrs, and those of mythology.  Its one fault may be its realistic presentation of groteque atrocities of war, but within the context of the story, such violence is forgivable.  The story is truly mesmerizing, so much so that I think I forgot to blink through most of it.  Although the ending may reveal itself before the story gets there, for those who can stomach its vivid visions of good versus evil, Pan's Labyrinth offers an unparalleled treat.

El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan's Labyrinth)
Directed By:  Guillermo del Toro
Written By:  Guillermo del Toro (screenplay)
Starring:  Ariadna Gil, Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú,
Doug Jones, Álex Angulo

MPAA:  Rated R for graphic violence and some language.

Reviewed by Vicki V.
Review published
March 5, 2007
Vicki's Rating: 5 Gruesome Fairy Tale Stars
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