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Pan's Labyrinth

#306 - Pan's Labyrinth
Guillermo del Toro, 2006

After moving to the remote home of her cruel military stepfather, a young girl discovers a fantastic underworld full of wonder and danger.

The main reason I felt like revisiting Pan's Labyrinth was to see how it beat out Children of Men for the Best Cinematography Oscar, but considering how good Pan's Labyrinth is, I didn't really need a reason to revisit it. It is an exercise in dark fantasy that doesn't shy away from depicting the horrific realities of a post-war fascist milieu that would make protagonist Ofelia retreat into fairytales. Such imagery combine with Ofelia's beloved fairytales to inform a vivid world of magic where a faun tasks her with completing a series of tasks in order to reclaim her rightful heritage as the heiress of a secret kingdom. Of course, she is countered at every turn by the restrictive nature of her home life, whether it is caring for her heavily pregnant mother or trying to avoid discipline from her incredibly strict and sadistic stepfather, Captain Vidal. Captain Vidal makes for one of the best villains in recent memory as his capacity for both violence and menace knows virtually no bounds. It's hard to know who provides the more horrifying antagonist, him or the fantasy world's "Pale Man".

I can definitely understand why this movie won Best Cinematography with its remarkable balancing of colours and fluid movements that tie in well with the extremely solid CGI work on display. The fantasy imagery is well-realised and combines with the real world in all the right ways to make the whole real-or-fake question especially difficult to answer. Performances are strong all throughout and the whole sub-plot involving a resistance movement planning their own subterfuge and uprising against the Captain is well-realised in a way that does not to detract from the fairytale plotline in the slightest. Pan's Labyrinth is definitely a film that holds up reasonably well, and while I may not love it the way a lot of people do, it is still excellent and recommended to anyone who like their fantasy to have just the right amount of edge.