Movie Review 2007 #12: Laberinto del Fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth)

On Saturday, I went to see the subtitled Spanish fantasy movie, Laberinto del Fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth), in the theater.Directed by Guillermo del Toro


Pan’s Labyrinth is a potent mixture of fantasy and reality, set in 1944 Spain. While the Second World War rages on (there is a throwaway reference to the Normandy invasion), Franco’s Spain writhes in the midst of its Civil War, as the fascist Franco government fights against leftist/communist guerillas.
In the midst of this, a young girl. Ofelia, comes with her pregnant mother to live with the mother’s new husband, an officer in the Spanish army, Capitan Vidal. While Vidal struggles against the guerillas near to the Mill, Ofelia discovers struggles of her own, in the form of a magical world and inhabitants, just around the corner…
Laberinto del Fauno intermixes the two main plots, although for a short while, I was convinced the fantasy angle was going to be dropped completely. The movie is dark and intense. Ofelia’s journey and the themes of the tasks set for her are reflected in the themes of the Civil War. Reflection, obedience to authority, life, birth, and more. While a few elements of the narrative could have been worked and explicated better, I think, the movie’s strength is in reflecting the two storylines and worlds.
And then there is the cinematography. I mentioned in a previous post that it is one of the five movies that is up for an Oscar in Best Cinematography. From the amazing fantasy world to the gritty and convincingly quotidian details of 1944 Spain, Del Toro’s filming is spectacular and draws the viewer into both worlds.
On the other hand, before you go out to see the film, I have to warn the reader that the movie is extremely violent and intense, especially for a movie with children fantasy elements. This violence and intensity is in both reflected worlds and some aspects did make me squirm and for that reason, I do not think this movie is at all for children, even if a child is a major protagonist. (The movie is rated R for *very* good reason).
I would like to see it again, to watch it and think about the symbology and how the movie works on multiple levels.