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April 23, 2007 | by  | in Film |
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Pan’s Labyrinth

The talk of the film world this year has been all about a Spanish fantasy film called Pan’s Labyrinth, winner of three Oscars. Crawling slowly for the first half with tedious close ups, things eventually get a lot darker.

Darkness is what this unconventional fairytale is all about. Set in 1944 amidst the backdrop of Franco’s Spain as the bitter civil war winds down, sadistic army Captain Vidal is mopping up guerrilla remnants of the resistance to Franco’s fascist regime. His pregnant wife and stepdaughter Ofelia have recently arrived at Vidal’s wooded villa headquarters opening up the threads of two parallel stories.

This is a political film focusing on the monster Vidal torturing his prisoners in medieval fashion. It’s a dark fairy tale full of powerful archetypes and the journey of an innocent girl coming to terms with her place in a bleak world. Vidal is obsessed with having a son and merely treats his sick wife as the carrier for his unborn legacy. The young heroine Ofelia is lured into the fairy realm by a shape shifting grasshopper and its dark and mysterious faun master.

This is however no Narnia style adventure, nor does David Bowie and cute Jim Henson creatures pop up in this labyrinth. Ofelia is given difficult tasks that can prove costly thus providing much suspense and tension throughout both of the film’s plot lines.

Pan’s Labyrinth is excellent, its strong spiritual impact heightened by deep symbolism. It helps put forward the idea that the god force reveals itself through everyday objects and communicates with us through our experiences. Ofelia may be stuck in bleak circumstances, but never gives up on the symbols in nature. With complete trust she’s guided to a realm that is more wonderful than everyday reality.

GUILLERMO DEL TORO

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