In 1944, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), a bookish 12-year-old arrives with her pregnant mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) at an isolated farmhouse in northern Spain. Here, amidst the dark woods and quietly subservient peasants, her new stepfather Vidal (Sergi López), an army captain, has set up base to harass leftover anti-Fascist rebels from the Civil War. The carefully sadistic Vidal has no squeamishness about the humanity of his anti-insurgent campaign, coolly ordering that all food and medical supplies for the nearby villagers be locked up in the farmhouse and only doled out under guard -- an attempt to starve out the rebels hiding up in the mountains. While the adults (including the excellent Maribel Verdú from Y Tu Mamá También as a woman with rebel ties) are fully enmeshed in their pungent dramas, Ofelia has her own problems of a different sort.
A small, fluttering fairy takes Ofelia to an ancient and partially overgrown labyrinth near the farmhouse. There, she meets a horned faun who tells Ofelia that she is the reincarnation of the underworld kingdom's long-vanished princess. So far, so good: what young girl doesn't want to hear some approximation of those words? The faun says that if she only completes three tasks, she'll become an immortal, magical being once again. While the guerrilla fighting sputters bloodily in the thickly wooded mountains, and her mother's pregnancy turns dangerous, Ofelia pursues her mythological tasks (retrieving a key from the stomach of a giant frog, stealing a dagger from a child-eating monster's lair) with the single-minded ardor of a child with nothing to lose. These tasks are filmed by del Toro like mini-epics, flooding over with white-knuckle tension and near-euphoric release, as little Ofelia sets herself against all the powers of evil. One of the adults says to Ofelia, "The world isn't like your fairy tales. The world is a cruel place." They don't understand that Ofelia's fairy tales are as cruel as anything she encounters in the "real" world.
Possessing both a rich sense of the pulpy fantastic and a realistic view of the evils of war, Del Toro (who also wrote the pitiless tear-jerker of a script) entwines his two stories with an unexpectedly emotional context. He still retains the comic fanboy love for the trappings of villainy -- an entire sound department must have been deployed simply to get the evil creak of Vidal's leather gloves just right -- but there's a character-driven impulse here which lifts the film far above the level of del Toro's banal comic book concoctions (Hellboy and Blade II). In Pan's Labyrinth, del Toro pays as much attention to his humans as he does to his beasts, unleashing a story with all the shivering intensity and satisfying denouement of the darkest Grimm's fairy tale.
Reviewed at the 2006 New York Film Festival. Aka El Laborinto del Fauno.
Don't call me a cylon.
Genre: Sci fi/Fantasy
Run time: 118 mins
In Theaters: Friday 19th January 2007
Box Office USA: $37.4M
Box Office Worldwide: $83.3M
Distributed by: Picturehouse
Production compaines: Tequila Gang, Estudios Picasso, Telecinco Cinema, Esperanto Filmoj, Sententia Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Fresh: 214 Rotten: 11
IMDB: 8.3 / 10
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Screenwriter: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Ivana Baquero as Ofelia, Maribel Verdú as Mercedes, Sergi López as Capitán Vidal, Doug Jones as Fauno / Pale Man, Ariadna Gil as Carmen, Álex Angulo as Dr. Ferreiro, Roger Casamajor as Pedro, Manolo Solo as Garcés, César Vea as Serrano, Ivan Massagué as El Tarta, Gonzalo Uriarte as Francés, Eusebio Lázaro as Padre, Francisco Vidal as Sacerdote, Juanjo Cucalón as Alcalde, Lina Mira as Esposa del alcalde, Mario Zorrilla as Jefe de botiquín, Sebastián Haro as Capitán Guardia Civil, Mila Espiga as Esposa del doctor, Pepa Pedroche as Conchita, Lalá Gatóo as Jacinta, Ana Sáez as Paz, Chani Martín as Trigo, Milo Taboada as Joven, Fernando Albizu as Maquinista, Pedro G. Marzo as Encargado, José Luis Torrijo as Sargento Bayona, Íñigo Garcés as Joven Guerrillero, Fernando Tielve as Joven Guerrillero 2, Federico Luppi as Rey, Chicho Campillo as Anciano, Pablo Adán as Narrator / Fauno (voice)
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