El Laberinto Del Fauno
Set in 1944 in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) seeks refuge from her depressing life and bullying, evil stepfather, Falangist Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez), by entering a mysterious Labyrinth, where she meets a Faun (Doug Jones, voiced by Pablo Adan), who sets her three tasks to be completed before the full moon so she may live in their world forever as royalty, reunited with her late father (Federico Luppi).
Two weeks ago on Film 2010 with Claudia Winkleman there was an interview with Director Guillermo Del Toro, who showed his sketch and thoughts book where he drafted his ideas for Pan's Labyrinth (or Pan's for short), and showed the sketches of his fantasy creatures - the Faun, and the grotesque Pale Man (also Jones) - and spoke of just how personal a film Pan's was to him, referring to his childhood and dreams, and love for fantasy. In the early scenes of the film one can see parralels to Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (Ofelia follows a magical insect-like fairy to the Labyrinth, while Alice followed a rabbit to Wonderland), and CS Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (like Lucy, the first creature Ofelia meets in the fantasy world is a faun, who speaks of the prophecy).
However, these tiny elements aside, the film is 100 per cent Del Toro's creation. The Labyrinth is so intricately created to be a dark, deep place where one can get lost so easily, and is so beautifully detailed it won't fail to catch your eye and impress. The Pale Man (the film's signature creature, with eyes in his hands) is so intricately designed and created to be the ultimate horrific creature, and its movement and horrific features are guaranteed to make the spine tingle and leave a lump in one's throat. It is enough reason not to watch the film before bed. As for the Faun, Del Toro does what (I don't think) has ever been done before and gives the Faun a goat's face so it's a bit more like a Satyr in design.
Unlike many fantasy films, however, it is the film's characters who carry it. Baquero is so immersing as Ofelia, she is such a believable and deep character that she just can't be flawed. However, Lopez steals the show as the evil Vidal, who has no human emotion until the climax when he realizes his newborn son (uncredited baby) will be orphaned. He is cold, blood-thirsty and spiteful, and Vidal does a perfect job creating such a heartless and cold antagonist that he is easily one of my all-time favourite antagonists, and is more likely to give you nightmares than The Pale Man any day.
Not just a film, but a true piece of art it is among the greatest films to have ever been released by Mexico, and the best Mexican film since the outstanding Amores Perros (2000). Pan's is so beautifully designed by the perfectionist that is Del Toro and carried from start to finish by its actors and creatures. An irresistable film to watch. Just beautiful.
Stars: Ivana Baquero, Sergi Lopez, Doug Jones, Maribel Verdu, Ariadna Gil, Roger Casamajor, Alex Angulo, Manolo Solo, Cesar Vea, Pablo Adan.
Oscars: Best Cinematography (Guillermo Navaro), Best Art Direction (Eugenio Caballero, Pilar Revuelta), Best Makeup (David Marti, Montse Ribe).
Oscar nominations: Best Foreign Language Film (Mexico), Best Original Screenplay (Guillermo Del Toro), Best Original Score (Javier Navarrete).
Welcome to this blog of my film reviews. Some have been drafted carefully on paper, others I have sat and typed. I'm going to make it clear right now that I don't expect you to agree with my (re)views, or to like my style of writing. However, I want my views to be just out there and open, as a person who wishes to express himself from deep within. Feel free to comment and debate with me, but I do ask that you are civil and not harsh, as any comments which are basically swear words and insults will automatically be deleted. Also any text that is in orange (and often bold) is a Hyperlink to either a source, or a previous post for background reference.