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Pan's Labyrinth

Ok... on a '5' at the mo so may as well make it a special one... and use my new stamps too...
Review #205, Movie #275
Pan's Labyrinth
El Laberinto Del Fauno

Year Of Release

Guillermo Del Toro

Guillermo Del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron, Bertha Navarro, Frida Torresblanco, Alvaro Augustin

Guillermo Del Toro

Ivana Baquero, Sergi Lopez, Maribel Verdu, Ariadna Gil, Alex Angulo and Doug Jones with Pablo Adan as Narrator

Del Toro was inspired my many fairy tales for Pan's Labyrinth... he has even been quoted as saying this was "his Narnia", and with good reason too; Del Toro actually turned down the opportunity to direct The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe to make Pan's Labyrinth and the result is something far more special than the butchery that was TLTWATW.
Most of the ideas, creatures and visuals in the film were also comprised from simple doodles Del Toro had made on scraps of paper... to add to that, CGI used to make his vision come to life was incorporated into the film sparingly too, and most of the effects and wonderful visuals were actually immensely complex sets, animatronics and makeup design.

Ofelia, a little girl living in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War (and with the rest of the world enthralled in WWII), has been moved with her heavily pregnant Mother to live with her Mother's new husband the Falangist Captain Vidal.
Vidal is a particularly brutal man with little remorse or emotion (other than anger) who is hunting the remnants of the Spanish Maquis and Ofelia and her Mother, along with their Maid/Helper live in constant fear of doing the wrong thing by Vidal.
But being an adventurous girl, Ofelia wanders into the nearby woodland and discovers a Faun...

... and the Faun tells Ofelia that she is the reincarnation of a Princess called Moanna... and she must accomplish a number of tasks so that she can re-join her people in a magical land and rule with her long dead Father.

Del Toro's creation is an absolute marvel to watch. He's incorporated some of the most special pieces of almost every Fairy Tale going and updated to whole lot into what I can only describe as a modern classic.

The very essence of Labyrinth is a real treat for anyone who has grown up with fantasy films. The filmmakers have made a genuinely hard hitting, heart-wrenchingly touching, heart-poundingly exciting and visually stunning movie for adults that delivers on every front.

What makes the movie stand apart is the sheer detail that Del Toro has put into the film. The look of the world, whether it be at the small town that Ofelia and her family are occupying, the wooded area she frequents or even the more fantastical places she visits on the adventures the Faun sends her; the eye for detail is simply immense.

Not just highly realised when it comes to originality, it's also highly recognisable in the fact that a lot of it is based around Fairy Tales and Fantasy of old and it gives a much more believable edge over other Fantasy features.

The story too is incredibly simple. Yet, so simple it gives yet more of an edge over other films of this type.
Little girl, reincarnated Princess, has to do tasks. That's it.
But then they overlay all of this with Ofelia's family and friends and then create a genuinely frightening antagonist in her Step-Father and back that up with the backdrop of a war.

What you're watching here is 3 films intertwined and written so brilliantly that it's easy to follow... and enjoy the whole lot at the same time.
Another thing that's special is that the audience never knows whether Ophelia's adventures really happened or if they're just her imagination. It's very cleverly put together in the screenplay.

The acting is also incredible.
Ivana Baquero as Ofelia is wonderfully out of her depth in the circumstances. Whether in the presence of her Step-Father, witnessing the war or in the middle of her adventures, she has an brilliant innocence about her that just draws the viewer in to loving her portrayal of the character and her strengths too.

Sergi Lopez is also on top form as Captain Vidal. His quiet unassuming persona makes for a genuinely disturbing character and when the going gets tough, his meaner side really shows through nicely.

Maribel Verdu as the Maid, Ariadna Gil as Ofelia's pregnant Mother and Alex Angulo as Doctor Ferreiro are more side characters but they have their own part to play within the "real world setting" amongst the war and fear of Captain Vidal.

The standout role though comes from Doug Jones in two roles... as the Faun, and also as the evil Pale Man.
Jones is barely seen under his makeup and prosthetics but his acting and, what is basically a mime act in both roles, are possibly the finest pieces of physical acting I've yet to see in a film.

There's little to no action exactly. More based around the puppetry and occasional CG that backs up the events around Ofelia.
But the sheer atmosphere of every set and set piece makes for highly entertaining viewing.
When the little hits of "action" do occur though, they're well pieced together in choreography and style and add more to the story as they're there for a reason, rather than just action for the sake of it.
The film is really more about story, atmosphere and character than just explosions and war.
One thing I will say though, is that the film doesn't shy away from gore and guts. Always a good thing especially when used to enhance the scene.
All in all, a modern classic and I can almost guarantee will reach ranks of actual Classic not far from now.
Incredible storytelling, visually beautiful and "engaging" just doesn't sum up the character writing at all.
One of the best I've seen.

My rating: 101%