Guillermo Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” attempts to explore the prevalent malevolence of the real world through the fantastical eyes of an innocent child.
Sergi López stars as the seriously evil and cold Capitán Vidal of a fascist post–World War II army base in rural Spain, where young Ofelia, portrayed by 12-year-old Ivana Baquero, comes to stay with her pregnant mother, Carmen Vidal (Ariadna Gil), Capitán Vidal’s naive new wife. Ofelia and Carmen Vidal arrive to an ominous mood and unwelcoming people. The film barely sways from this unabashed bleakness, and it is unrelenting.
Soon Ofelia is caught up in a real fairy tale, where she must complete three tasks that challenge her courage and strength before she can return to her rightful place as princess of the underworld, seemingly a dream come true.
Meanwhile, gruesome fighting breaks out between the rebel army and the military base. Capitán Vidal realizes the traitors among him, as a world of anger and fear spirals out of control, emotionally and visually.
The film is beautifully shot by Guillermo Navarro, director of photography, and the score, written by Javier Navarrete, is magically suspenseful, adding to the dark tone and tragic buildup. After the first 20 minutes of the film, the viewer is bombarded with almost insulting graphic violence as a constant reminder as to who is good and who is evil. Showing such horrific gore is unnecessary in grasping even the deepest of concepts. After watching men’s faces blown to pieces and others’ eyeballs slowly filling up with blood, the film loses some of its value and easily becomes more of a shock and gore flick than the important epic it set out to be.
Though creative in its original story and production of magical creatures, which there aren’t nearly enough of, the film doesn’t feel entirely truthful. When most of the action on the screen is blunt violence that makes up for the lack of focus on the human reactions, it does not necessarily qualify as an acceptable excuse for innovation. Frankly it seems like a missed opportunity.
“Pan’s Labyrinth” is written and directed by Guillermo del Toro.
“Pan’s Labyrinth” received three out of four stars.