User Reviews (1,158)

Add a Review

  • Helen Chavez27 August 2006
    I saw the film at FrightFest in London a couple of days ago, and was pretty well sure I'd be seeing something special - but I ended up seeing a film that is downright extraordinary. Brutal but beautiful, magical yet earthy, it has a remarkable cast, with standout performances all round.

    A special mention must go to Sergi Lopez, whose 'Captain Vidal' is indeed one of the most sadistic film creations ever seen. Yet he manages to make the audience understand why he is the way he is ... an astounding performance. Maribel Verdu's quiet but rebellious housekeeper is one of the strongest female roles I've seen in many a year, and she is supported by a wealth of talent. Young Ivana Baquero is surprisingly self-assured as 12-year-old Ofelia, and I especially liked her almost Alice-like approach to the magical creatures she encounters in the labyrinth. The icing on this warped fairy tale is Doug Jones, who gives a towering performance - and in this case literally, as well as figuratively - as the guardian of the labyrinth, a faun, full of grace and charm and latent menace. Although dubbed, his Spanish is perfect (Jones speaks not a word of the language), and his physical presence is incredibly powerful as his character teases, cajoles and harries Ofelia to fulfil her tasks. He also plays the devastatingly creepy and disgusting 'Pale Man' - a creature that almost equals Vidal in his terrorising habits.

    But the cast is just one facet of this gloriously photographed film, with Javier Navarrete's hauntingly simple score weaving itself into the fabric of a film perfectly edited and written. The brutality of post-Civil War Spain contrasts with the world of magic to which Ofelia is drawn, yet everywhere she goes she has choices to make. In fact the film is about choices, good and bad, and one discovers that no matter how desperate a situation becomes, a choice is always available - although that choice may mean one's death. The film is violent - very violent, but each moment of brutality, although graphic, has a purpose - nowhere is it gratuitous.

    I loved it - as I knew I would - and if the Oscar voters don't give this film at least a nod for Best Foreign Language Film next year, then I will know that they have lost any sense of reason or comprehension. Because this film is truly a masterpiece, and Del Toro's greatest work to date.
  • Set during Franco's mopping up exercise after the Spanish Civil War, Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth is a wonderful, dark fairy tale that, in a metaphor for Spain itself, teeters on the edge of nightmare dreamscapes of corruption, violence and the death of innocents.

    This film is definitely not for young children. Although the fantasy sequences are gorgeously realised, and are fairy tales in the truest sense (in that they are dark, fey, dangerous and violent), most of the story (about three quarters of it, in fact) exists outside of the dreamland, in the even more frightening (and sometimes shockingly violent) world of a real life struggle of ideas and ideology.

    Sergi Lopez is excellent as the brutal (and possibly sadistic) Falangist Captain tasked with routing out the remaining leftists from the woods and hills of Northern Spain. Into this precarious situation come his new wife (a widow of a former marriage, who is carrying his son) and his stepdaughter Ofelia (played to absolute perfection, by the then 11 year old, Ivana Baquero).

    Uncomfortable with her new surroundings, suspicious of her stepfather and desperately concerned about the worsening condition of her mother, Ofelia uncovers a strange alternative world, and the chance to escape forever the pain and uncertainty of her everyday life.

    Thus the film alternates between the world of Civil War Spain and the increasingly bizarre, dark and frightening world of the Pan's Labyrinth. As the twin plots progress, they intertwine, with the tasks of Ofelia becoming the choices faced by a Spain at the crossroads. The poignancy of the film lies partly in the fact that the victories of the child are reflected so starkly by the failures of the adult world.

    Apparently Pan's Labyrinth won a 20-minute standing ovation at Cannes, when it was shown. This may be a little bit over the top. I suspect when the furore has died down some will choose to swing the pendulum back and criticise it for its more obvious faults. Much of the film is derivative. There are few ideas in the film's magical dreamworld that haven't been seen before. There are also few ideas in the film's depiction of the Civil War that can't be read in Satre or Orwell; can't be viewed in Picasso's Guernica; or can't be watched in Land and Freedom.

    For all the evident truth of these observations, to accept them would be to entirely miss the majesty of Pan's Labyrinth, which doesn't lie in its originality but its absolute mastery of execution. People will watch Pan's Labyrinth in a way that most won't watch Land and Freedom. In doing so, they will also discover a world of fairy tales which existed before Disney sunk its claws into them: a dangerous world, where nothing is as it seems and every step is a possible death – a place which may leave even adults shivering under the duvet, part in terror, part in wonder. And all this backed up by the finest cinematography I've seen.

    The only real faults I am prepared to allow for this film is a slight tendency (particularly at the end) for a Narnia-like moralism, and the fact that the faun is, perhaps, is not quite wild enough! These are eminently forgivable, though. This is easily the best film I've seen this year, and a must see on the big screen.
  • This is a movie with a simple and straightforward plot which contains layers and layers of intelligent writing, metaphors and message.

    To speak further about the script will end up in spoilers and that would be pointless since my very purpose writing this review is to encourage people to see it.

    This is no small feat, interpreting fantasy as something of a product of a real world, cross-referencing how the child acts to her real surroundings and the "other world", metaphors that describe the accelerated state of growing up some of us are put through... Incredible. Simple, straightforward yet there is so much to be appreciated.

    Those who are saying how it's predictable and thus not enjoyable, I ask of you, which movie nowadays aren't predictable? Hell, even 21 grams was predictable but so damned good. It's not about how it ends, you can always predict how a movie would end if you've ever taken a half-decent script writing class or have some common sense. It's always about how well you tell a story.

    I'm grateful there are still directors who aren't tied down to this new epidemic of including a plot twist simply because they need a plot twist.

    Pan's Labyrinth features some of the best storytelling and attention to detail without being affected by the now ever-popular opinion of cameras having to be put through several technical difficulties to make the shots eligible to be called a brilliant shot.

    I am also grateful for them not dubbing it. Watching it in its' original language is much, much more rewarding even if I had to rely on the subtitles for most of the time.

    This is a brilliant movie. Watch it.
  • Everyone's been raving about this. My opinion doesn't differ too much. It did however suffer slightly from the overwhelmingly high expectations I'd developed based on how brilliant everyone said it was, and the whole "20min ovation at Cannes" thing. Really, who stands for that long? That said, it's an amazing work.

    Skipping the plot recap (find the briefest synopsis you can if you need to be filled in), I'll go straight to the tech specs. I'm not a huge Del Toro fan, Cronos was interesting but lacked something for me. Mimic was dross. Hellboy was enjoyable and Ron Perlman is always great on screen. But here, the director really outdoes himself. By far. He has wrapped together some amazing elements and somehow maintains a balance, that doesn't tip into the mundane or the ridiculous for a moment. And this is no mean feat. The story is part historical drama, part fantasy, part family melodrama. When it dips out of the fantasy, it still enchants.

    Sergi Lopez and Maribel Verdú really drive the story in the historical drama scenes. I haven't seen Lopez in anything other than a film called Lisbon, in which he played a character so completely opposite from the Captain. He is a fierce and terrifying guy but actually comes across as sympathetic in a couple of scenes. Verdu is incredible as Mercedes, the head housekeeper (or something) who is Ofelia's closest friend in the house. The scenes with these characters and the civil war subplot never fail to hold your attention. Ivana Baquero is excellent as the main character Ofelia, her performance is very mature and believable and she shares some beautiful scenes with her mother and Mercedes.

    When the fairy tale elements return, it's astounding how naturally they fit into the story. I think that is the real magic of this film. The war drama and the fairy tale stem so naturally from each other.

    One thing that most reviews haven't mentioned is the violence. I think it's been firmly established that this is an adult's fairytale, but at times it is a very intense and brutal film. There are a couple of scenes in particular which are very disturbing and difficult to watch. These do not distract from the tone and theme of the film however so they don't seem exploitative at all. If you are squeamish, it may get a bit much for you.

    A final and obvious point I spose I can't get away without making: the set design, costumes and effects are superb. That's all.

    I was perhaps expecting a little more fantasy, but the unique blend of genres is absolutely compelling. There wasn't a false note anywhere or a plot hole, which are too often present in fantasy films. I can't recall a good, original fantasy film from recent years. Fortunately this blows MirrorMask out of the water. It doesn't share any of the contrivances, vagueness or ineffectual characters with that film.

    I just wish I'd seen it without already having read so much. I've tried very hard to not reveal any plot details at all as it does go to some surprising and unexpected places. Fortunately most of the reviews have done the same. I'd urge anyone with the chance to see it to do so immediately, and try not to read too much more.
  • I was fortunate enough to catch Pan's Labyrinth last night as part of the 'Fright Fest' programme in London and was completely blown away. Guillermo Del Toro himself was present to both introduce the movie and to answer questions afterwards. He spoke very passionately about the film, and it was easy to see why. Guillermo Del Toro has created something very special - part war movie, part fantasy, that everyone should see. The film features a fantastic performance by Sergi Lopez as Captain Vidal and as central character Ofelia, newcomer Ivana Baquero delivers the performance of a seasoned veteran. If you are the type of person who is put off by subtitled movies, don't be. This is a very 'visual' film that does not rely overly on dialogue. This does not open until 24 November in the UK and 29 December in the USA but already I am looking forward to seeing it again (and buying the Special Edition DVD).This is the first time I've felt the need to write a review on here. Do yourselves a favour and go and watch it on the big screen.
  • Chris_Docker22 November 2006
    Warning: Spoilers
    1944. Franco's authoritarian fascist regime is a horrid world for a child, barely into her teens. Ofelia retreats into herself, finding in her fantasy world the lessons of courage, self-discipline and integrity she will need. With her, we travel beyond outward appearances, through a labyrinth of fears and uncertainties, from which Spain will not escape for several decades.

    A dark, brutal fairytale, chillingly set in the real world but full of hope and warmth, Pan's Labyrinth accomplishes a masterpiece.

    Our film opens with a momentary shot of Ofelia, blood from a nosebleed disappearing as the frames are introduced in reverse. A voice-over takes us back to the time of the Spanish Civil War. Ofelia arrives (with her pregnant mother) at a nationalist military base in the woods and is introduced to her stepfather, a vicious commanding officer. Capitán Vidal dispenses arbitrary justice to anyone he suspects is against him. Two suspected rebels caught by his men are summarily executed. Only afterwards is a rabbit discovered in their bag, proving their claim that they are just woodsmen (and maybe also a throwaway reference to Alice in Wonderland).

    Ofelia is unwilling to accept this harsh adult world. She retreats into a labyrinth where she meets a strange Pan-like creatures, Fauno, who gives her a set of tasks where she has to face some of her darkest fears, winning a key for her next task.

    The story becomes more intense, both outside the labyrinth (where Vidal is busy torturing people) and inside, where Ofelia has to face the Pale Man - a creature that has plucked out its eyes and can only see by placing them in the stigmata on its hands. Around the walls of the room are pictures of people being cast into hell by the Pale Man (From inference or the director's comments, it is apparent that the Pale Man represents authoritarianism, whether that of the Fascists or the Church). In Pan's Labyrinth we have a parable about the journey of Spanish society from the 1940s to post-Franco, a magical fairytale of stunning beauty, a story of the struggle and character development of a child on the edge of puberty, and a tense story of battles between Nationalists and Republicans. That they are all welded together seamlessly and precisely in a multi-level narrative is a remarkable achievement and thrilling experience. The sheer artistry recalls Cocteau's La Belle at la Bête. Del Toro sweeps us into a dreamlike, poetic vision, with a minimum of CGI and a grasp of dialogue that seems almost transcendental.

    In a brave decision, an actor (Ivana Baquero) who is only as old as her character has been used to play the young Ofelia. But as the ethereal figure between two worlds, she is also there to cast the earthy characters involved in material battles into more visceral contrast. Editing is crisp throughout, without a single frame wasted. Rich colours and unflinching camera-work keep us rooted in the experience, whether it is Ofelia crawling face-down in the mud and covered with insects, or a hapless victim having his nose smashed in by the Capitán. Yet scenes of tenderness and beauty are equally as moving - Ofelia retreating into her mother's arms, a nursemaid powerless to help her republican lover, or a doctor performing an act of mercy.

    The movies, like our dreams, folklore and imagination, are rich with symbols and images that can strike a chord in our deepest being. Artists, as well as creators of myths and religion, have long employed such symbols to guide and inspire, knowing that the conscious mind may accept a sign more easily than rational argument alone.

    In watching a movie, we combine ideas of the real, the imaginary and the symbolic to find an inner affinity. And, if the filmmaker has done his job properly, will feel truly moved.

    One of the things that can make or break a movie that makes extensive use of symbols is whether those symbols echo in the collective unconscious, often through time honoured association, or not. Knowledge of mythology or Jungian psychology can make all the difference. Much has been made of the title. Originally 'El Laberinto del Fauno', the translation at first appears sloppy, but Del Toro has done his research well. While quipping that it 'just sounded better', a little investigation of classical authorities shows Faunus as a form of the ancient god Pan (Lempriere). Pan, the goat-like god that represents a totality of possibilities, together with goat-like stubbornness and independence of thought, is the perfect symbol. In the film he says, "I've had so many names... I am the mountain, the forest and the earth. . . . I am a faun. Your most humble servant, Your Highness." In Greek Mythology, Pan also won the affections of a princess under the form of a goat. The freedom of thought (and sexuality) he advocated, with the rise of Christianity, caused him to be portrayed as the Devil; but we learn his intentions are good, whereas the holy-looking Pale Man offers temptation only as an excuse to rip his victims apart. As an aspect of the creative power, fauns in mythology also symbolise firm aspiration and human intelligence.

    The one symbol that Del Torro is less adept in using is that of dying. He tends to use the valid, if flawed connotation of redemption-through-death promoted by the religions he disavows, but it is a small point that in no way spoils the story.

    Pan's Labyrinth leads us through parallel stories and themes without once losing its internal consistency. Some audiences may be put off by the idea of using flights of fancy in such a blatant way or, sadly, by the fact that it is subtitled. Such minor monsters should not get in the way of enjoying the film on a simple entertainment level. Cinephiles, on the other hand, will not want to miss such a rare treat of talent.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Second viewing: My appreciation only grows. Interpretations-

    1st interpretation: Ophelia's world is real- happy ending.

    If this interpretation is valid, we deal with themes of war and disobedience. Here, Pan's Labyrinth serves as an allegory against the totalitarian regime of Fascist Spain, symbolized by Vidal. Vidal is represented in the fantasy storyline by the Pale Man; they both sit at the end of the table at the feasts, and they are both violent and cruel. Furthermore, the Pale Man is an allegory to "Saturn Devouring his Son" by Fransisco Goya, as both Cronus and the Pale Man eat the heads off of their victims first. If Cronus represents the Pale Man, and the Pale Man represents Vidal, and Vidal represents Fascist Spain, Del Toro implies that Fascist Spain is just as cruel as Cronus; like how Cronus devours his own sons, Fascist Spain kills their own people.

    2nd interpretation: Ophelia's world is her imagination- tragic ending (or is it? Some might say that she was better off dead than having to live with her terrible hardships).

    If this interpretation is valid, we deal with themes of self-deception and how reality and fantasy can coexist. Here, Pan's Labyrinth explores how Ophelia creates a fantasy for herself to deal with the harsh realities of war. In this case, we can interpret the final fantasy sequence as Ophelia's imagination, her creation and the world she wished to live. Besides, you can tell she is still alive, as Del Toro shows her lips quiver right after the fantasy sequence.

    Observations-

    *The film features many smooth cuts, which Del Toro hides with trees and black screens. This could imply how reality and fantasy intertwine, supporting the second interpretation. BUT smooth cuts never go from fantasy to reality or reality to fantasy, only fantasy to fantasy or reality to reality. This could suggest the first interpretation, where reality and fantasy are separate.

    *Vidal sees the monster under the bed, which supports the 1st interpretation. Yet at the same time, he does not see the faun at the end, which supports the 2nd interpretation. But again, Vidal has just consumed some kind of poison, so it may be his hallucinations in which he does not see the faun.

    *Del Toro never cuts away from the violence, emphasizing the brutality of war.

    *Cinematography is magnificent- dark, gloomy, blue colors in reality sequences to depict its dreariness, while bright, vibrant reds and oranges to depict enthusiasm. In the final scenes, the reds of blood and explosions stand out because the blues have become so common with the eye. Del Toro consciously had the blood and explosions to stand out to emphasize the violence of war.

    *Notice how Del Toro establishes tension between Ophelia and Vidal; When Ophelia shakes with the wrong hand, Vidal points it out, forming an uneasy tone between them. This first encounter between the two main characters in their respective storylines is vital for their relationship in the future scenes, especially the climax.

    Bottom line is, both interpretations are valid, and Del Toro utilizes both of them to deliver both of their respective themes.

    As magnificent as this film is, there may be authenticity flaws. For example, why didn't Mercedes kill Vidal after she escaped? Is she still obedient to Vidal? Then why did he directly disobey his order at the end when Vidal asked to tell his son the time of his death? For me, it's clear why Del Toro left these authenticity flaws: to drive the story forward. Attempting to patch these flaws would've been at the expense of pacing, and the audience's engagement is more important than plot holes.

    After all, these flaws are more or less hidden; visible only to those who know where to look.
  • I saw the movie yesterday in the Spanish premiere and I confirm: it's one of the best Guillermo del Toro's films (if not the best ever). Innocence and brutality, fantasy and reality, together in a wonderful fairy tale about the power of magic in dark times. The performances are great, mainly from Sergi López, Maribel Verdú and the big revelation of the film: the 12 years girl Ivana Baquero. Del Toro repeats the context of the film "El Espinazo del Diablo" ("The Devil's Backbone"), the Spanish Post-Civil War, with the same philosophy: the supernatural invading the daily life in a depressive environment and the innocence of children trapped between both world. But "El Laberinto del Fauno" is most compact, most mature and best done in very aspects, and perhaps it's the most personal movie from Del Toro.
  • ThreeSpoons8215 September 2006
    I saw this at this years FrightFest Film Festival in London and absolutely loved it.

    Guillermo was there to introduce it and you can tell it really is a film he loves and is passionate about.

    He referred to it as a sister movie to The Devils Backbone.

    Anyway . . . so the film starts and I must admit I was expecting a lot more of a fantasy film however it is more of a 70/30 split between historical era movie/fantasy fairytale.

    Don't let this put you off though, the film really is stunning and brilliantly acted. The little girl carries pretty much the whole film on her shoulders and does so with the skill of Atlas himself!

    The violence is graphic and the monsters are scary but it is probably one of the most gorgeous and personal films from a director for a long time!

    Give it a go if you can get to a screening, DON'T WAIT FOR DVD, it really does need to be seen on a big screen!
  • zetas-14 September 2006
    It is Guillermo del Toro's best film ( 22 minutes ovation at Cannes). Del Toro gets a brilliant film but also superb performances from all involved, particularly from Sergi Lopez as a brutal Fascist army captain Vidal and Doug Jones (Abe Sapien from del Toro's Hellboy) as the Pan and the wonderfully disturbing Pale Man. But the real find is Ivana Baquero (12 years old) as the young heroine Ofelia. She gives one of the best performances from a child actor we have seen since Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense. Come to it unprepared and with your mind wide open and you will be rewarded with one of the best films of the year."
  • I saw this film toward the end of the Cannes Film Festival; it edged out all the others I'd seen, 30 of them, because of its wonderful story; history, politics and fantasy woven into a fabric spun by a superlative creative team headed by Guillermo del Toro. In comparison to this, his latest effort, del Toro's other films only hinted at the depth and breadth of his talent. In this film, much as I pride myself on foreseeing the outcome of most stories, I could not guess what would happen next. The film is quite long, yet suspense is sustained throughout. The music is some of the best I've heard in years, so well suited to the action that you almost don't notice its specific effect because of how well it is intertwined with the visual, emotional and intellectual experience.

    In my opinion, del Toro's "...Labyrinth" deserved to win at Cannes over the Ken Loach film, "The Wind That Shakes the Barley". Actually, everyone I knew at the Festival who had seen both agreed with me. And the 22 minute ovation speaks clearly for the effect on the audience. It's hard to imagine that any film could beat it in a context other than Cannes where they have marked preferences, bordering on obsession, for certain directors.

    Let's hope that the late December opening favors an Oscar nomination which it should win hands down, unless some other work of genius appears on the horizon. That doesn't seem likely because at Cannes the somewhat disappointing array of films was attributed to the fact that not much great product is being released this year. I might add that I had already seen Volver prior to Pan's Labyrinth, and I maintain that Pan is the better film. For me, it displaced all three of my top films of the year. I do love The Departed but, luckily, that's in another category which does not threaten Pan's access to Oscar. If I had to choose the very best picture of the year, without limitation by category, it would most assuredly go to Pan's Labyrinth for it demonstrates del Toro's originality and brilliance as both writer and director.
  • When I heard first time about the movie made by the Mexican director Guillermo del Toro that was a mixture of many genres, including drama, fantasy, thriller, and fairy tale for adults that takes place in Spain of 1944 in two parallel words, one of unbearable bleak and horrifying reality, and the other of deliciously dark magic fantasy, I wanted very much to see it. I knew that the movie has been praised by many critics and has made hundreds top lists of last year, that it was nominated for countless awards including six Academy awards and it won three Oscars, and that it had received 20 minutes standing ovation at Cannes. The main reason for me was the fact that I love del Toro's earlier film, "The Devil's Backbone" (2001), the ultimate ghost story that goes beyond the genre and very successfully mixes horror, suspense, and coming of age during the war time story.

    I hoped and expected "Pan's Labyrinth" to be as compelling, insightful, interesting, and engaging as "The Devil's Backbone" was. I finally saw "Pan's Labyrinth" couple of days ago and I was disappointed. The movie has an interesting concept, even if not original one. It brings to mind many famous works of literature and the earlier movies about the little girls escaping their dreadful realities of war or death of the loved ones or all sorts of abuse in the world of their imagination such as "Forbidden Games", "Spirits of the Beehive" (which "Pan's Labyrinth" tried to be but never was), the later also takes place in Spain during the Civil war, as well as "Wizard of Oz", "Alice in Wonderland", "Legends and Myths of Ancient Greece".

    One movie that "Pan's Labyrinth" has been often compared to is Terry Gilliam's "Tideland", his fairy tale for adults, his "Alice in Wonderland meets Psycho" which also tells the story of an 11-years-old girl and her world of imagination. "Tideland" was released last year and was either ignored or hated by majority of critics and left many viewers puzzled and confused. I am not completely in love with "Tideland" but I found it much more interesting that "Pan's Labyrinth" in all aspects. The main difference between the two - Gillian does not present reality in his film in the simplistic way and does not divide his characters to devilish monsters or shining knights the way Del Toro does in "Pan Labyrinth".

    I am not sure what the target audience for Del Toro's film is? Its story (the writer/director was nominated for the best screenplay and I found his writing the weakest and most ridiculous part of the movie) is so naive and primitive that you would think the movie was made for children but its shocking violence and horrifying tortures are not easy to watch even for adults. Another problem is with the characters. I know I should sympathize with Ofelia, and who would not feel empathy for an 11-year-old girl who had to live through the death of her mother and to confront her monstrous step-father but if frankly, her character is not very interesting. As for visual effects and cinematography, the film looks good but not especially spectacular or breathtakingly beautiful. Of five Oscar nominated films for best cinematography from last year, at least three seemed to be more interesting. Gilliam's "Tideland" that was completely ignored by the Academy, is always technically superb, visually arresting and much more impressive than "Pan's Labyrinth".

    I should admit that at least one scene in "Labyrinth" was absolutely brilliant - dark and scary it came directly from Francisco Goya's terrifying painting, "Saturn Devouring His Children" and it was extremely imaginative. I would not go as far as calling "Pan's Labyrinth" a bad movie and give it one star. It is not bad; it is just not as great as I thought it would be. As for all the awards, "The Devil's Backbone" is much more deserving than "Pan's Labyrinth" and that's the film I would give a standing ovation to.
  • First lets start with the 20 minute standing ovation this film supposedly got at Cannes. After watching the film I don't believe it. Someone must have exaggerated the length of time by at least 18 minutes. That or those apparently ecstatic people were drunk. Don't get me wrong this is a good film. But the praise this is getting from critics and people writing here is way over the top. I was fully expecting a work of real vision and/or originality but what I experienced was a film that borrows from other films and admittedly gels everything together into a cohesive and impressive whole. A lot of great films do the same but 'Pans Labrynth' has other faults that prevent it from being put in the same category as the truly great films.

    'Pans Labrynth' at times is too predictable - a side effect from borrowing from other films - therefore some scenes feel clichéd. Also the tasks the girl has to complete in order to take her place as princess could have been more imaginatively realized. Finally the message/point/allegory of the film is trite and simplistic. Still worth watching but is this really one of the top 100 films of all time? Not even close...
  • Carmen has married Captain Vidal and, pregnant with his son, travels with her daughter Ofelia to join him in his woodland barracks where he is trying to quash the small bands of rebellion against the Fascist regime. Carmen is not well and Vidal immediately puts her into the care of Dr Ferreiro who confines her to her bed after a short time. Vidal is a cruel man, perhaps hardened by the battle he fights and the beliefs he holds and Ofelia finds him to have no time for her and her no interest in him. While she tries to cope with the reality of her new life she also finds herself taken by a fairy into a dark underworld where a faun offers her a new life as a princess if she completes a series of tasks for him.

    With all the papers and amateur reviewers here putting this film high up the list of best films of 2006 I rued that I missed my chance to see the film when it originally came out but got the opportunity recently on holiday in Cornwall at what my girlfriend called the "smallest cinema on earth" (it wasn't but it must have been close). Perhaps the weight of expectation on the film played a part but I confess to have enjoyed it but not found the masterpiece that the majority have claimed. The film works pretty well and has a very strong central narrative which, contrary to the marketing, is actually the real world and not the fantasy. This is an engaging real-world horror that focuses on the struggle between guerrilla fighters and the fascists led by Vidal. On the other side of the coin we have the fantasy involving Ofelia where, like the real world, she finds a world of darkness where she is not entirely sure who to trust. Now my main problem with the film is the overlap between these two elements and how they fit together.

    I have read others say that the fantasy echoes the real world but, as much as I want to see this, it just didn't ring true for me. On a very basic level I get it but that is different from the film cleverly weaving them together and making it work. This separation detracted from both aspects of the story (although less so the real parts) and also saw the fantasy be only partially explained and harder to become really engaged with. My girlfriend said she felt the story was simplistic enough to work best for older children and that the "horror" part was therefore too harsh as it prevented this audience getting in the door (in the UK this was rated a 15). At first I agreed with her but on reflection it actually works the other way because this is much more of an adult tale but just doesn't quite have the intelligence and complexity in all parts of the story (again specifically the fantasy).

    By this point my review will have been slated by all readers who are not used to a dissenting voice but for those who have made it this far let me just say that it is a very good film overall and that I did enjoy it. Outside of the plot there is much to enjoy as well. The writing is very good and the dialogue (albeit subtitled) interesting and never clunky or obvious even if some of the scenes would have made it easy for it to be so. The fantasy world is wonderfully created and engagingly dark with the creatures a mix of wonder and menace. The faun himself is good and well used although it was a shame to see such a terrifying vision such as the pale man so briefly used and with little expansion beyond a lurching menace in one scene. Del Toro directs well across all aspects of the film and keeps this sense of dark menace across everything. I also liked the references scattered across the narrative, such as Alice in Wonderland to name one in particular. He directs his cast well too, drawing a very good performance from Baquero in the central role. López could have hammed it up but, while he doesn't really make a person here, he avoids being a pantomime baddie. Verdú is strong as Mercedes while Gil is good but left with little to do outside of suffer and worry. Jones does well within his creatures to deliver the potential within the design.

    Overall then not strong enough in important ways to make it the classic everyone is hailing it as but certainly interesting and engaging enough to be one of stronger films of 2006. Visually impressive and very well delivered, I'm afraid I just found it hard to get over the disconnect between the two aspects of the story no matter how much I wanted to find it.
  • I had unsurmountable expectations for this one, and, alas, they remain unsurmounted. It didn't even come close. It is an entertaining film, but, as a whole, it feels half-baked. Near the end of the Spanish Civil War, a little girl, Ofelia, is taken with her pregnant mother to an old mill, where her new husband, a sadistic army captain, awaits. At the mill, she meets a fairy who leads her to a faun, who asks her to perform three tasks so she might take her place as princess of a magical kingdom. It's less a fantasy film than a fairy tale. In that way, I suppose I'm obliged to forgive that its fantasy world goes completely unrealized and remains paper thin throughout. Honestly, except for a couple of sequences, there really isn't a fantasy world. Most of the film takes place in the real world, where the Captain is trying to rid the area of some pesky rebels and Ofelia's mother is struggling to survive her difficult pregnancy. What is much harder to forgive, though, is that Guillermo del Toro extends the two-dimensionality to the Spanish Civil War setting. The Captain is a completely cartoonish bad guy, and the situation is seen completely in black and white. I mean, we're talking about a real conflict here where many people died. It's kind of insulting. If this were an American made film, people would be railing against it. It's also insulting to Spirit of the Beehive, on which del Toro has said he based the film. Where Spirit is a gentle yet effective study on the nature of human cruelty, Pan celebrates human cruelty with extremely violent sequences which are meant to be enjoyed as they are in action films (the director did, of course, previously make Blade II and Hellboy). Wow, it sounds like I hated this film! I didn't, really. I have some ideological problems with it, obviously, and I wish it were better than it is. But it is an enjoyable little horror/fantasy film. You could do better, but you could do worse, too.
  • I went into this movie with no expectations, except that I'd see a Spanish-language, adult-oriented fantasy film with English subtitles. I think unmet expectations can hurt people in two ways: either the film disappoints them and they are overly critical as a result, or they are disappointed but too biased to admit it. I think the latter has led to an exceedingly generous rating for this particular film. Is it good? Yes. Is it the 65th best (according to current IMDb ratings) movie of all time? Not even close.

    It is an interesting, original story. Virtually every actor appearing in the film is superb. The imagery is magnificent. Like I said, it is a good picture. However, I am puzzled as to why it is praised so highly. I would have a greater appreciation for the film if its adult-oriented nature was due to its substance, such as an intellectual, sophisticated and enigmatic storyline. It is adult-oriented, however, merely because of a few choice phrases and displays of graphic violence. This is not a film that is breaking new ground. It is too simplistic throughout, becomes fairly predictable, and lacks fluidity. The unimaginative way in which the fantasy elements come and go was a real put off. The 65th best movie of all time should have the fantastic elements blended seamlessly with the human elements. It should continue being original throughout. It should challenge the viewer in new and engaging ways. It should not merely curse, show some blood, and have pretty imagery.

    Please, see this movie and enjoy it. I truly did. I also, however, allowed myself to make a realistic assessment afterward. I expect that the rating will come down as the novelty of an adult-oriented fantasy picture wears off. Maybe I missed something, but I doubt a specious film like this can conceal such intricacies.
  • kenjha7 January 2010
    This fairy tale with parallels to "Alice in Wonderland" has a little girl encountering bizarre characters in an alternate universe. The cinematography is quite impressive and del Toro displays a fine visual flair. However, the script is too random and contrived to be interesting and the characters are one-dimensional. The captain, for example, is pure evil, lacking a single redeeming character; his wife is a whiny weakling. The film intersperses the fairy tale with the account of the fascist army fighting insurgents, but the two threads don't complement each other. It's like watching two movies. del Toro's obsession with stomach-churning violence doesn't help matters.
  • williejk18 February 2016
    Playing moments of true wonderment off scenes of sadistic brutality, Guillermo del Toro has created an epithet for classical fairy tales reminiscent of the traditional stories which amazed - yet simultaneously frightened - children.

    Del Toro offers us two worlds through the perspective of young Ofelia. The first - reality - is the cruelty of Franco's Spain; where Ofelia is whisked away to her sadistic step-father (played brilliantly by Sergi Lopez) who is attempting to root out the last remnants of the Republic. The second - fantasy - is the underground kingdom - or more precisely the promise of such a world - as Ofelia must complete three tasks for the beautifully constructed faun in order to prove her worth of being a part of such a utopia. What elevates Pan's Labyrinth above other fantasises, however, is the fact that its reality sequences are just as intriguing as its fantasy elements - a rare feat - and the two meld together perfectly.

    For instance, the faun may offer interestingly ambiguous revelations about Ofelia's destiny, but only if she follows his orders. Yet he doesn't necessarily mean what he says, and the presence of the Fascists in Ofelia's reality suggests that blindly following orders is the complete opposite of what she should do. So, while there are trips into the magical world (including a disturbing yet inherently memorable scene with the hieronymus bosch-like spectre known as the 'Pale Man') they do not overwhelm the film.

    The true horror and the meat of the story lies in Falangist Spain with the menacing Captain Vidal, who takes delight in torture - ritually preparing his tool kit and reciting his own speech to demoralise his victims - and who is equally obsessed with the continuation of his bloodline. The fantasy world is indeed where Ofelia's lessons are learned so that she may confront the terrors of reality; the most important of which being the need for courageous disobedience in the face of extreme oppression. Pan's Labyrinth therefore successfully and perfectly captures the essence of classical children's literature; combining fantasy with moments of horror, all with an underlying and ultimately crucial message which we must take head of in reality. The final scene is also a true whopper; with a killer of a send-off line and an ambiguous ending which still fuels debates to this day.

    Thankfully, del Toro uses CGI sparingly, although it is very obvious when it is used (particularly in the case of the giant toad) but this doesn't detract from the film's overall brilliance. It's dark, at times disturbing, but nevertheless beautiful, a true Gothic tale if there ever was one.
  • I stuck around for this movie to serve something not yet seen or experienced in dozens of related films which I was so sure this movie would provide. Sadly, that moment never came.

    Although I have no complaints with the acting and setdesigns which were on par with any quality movie, there are basically three things that deprive this movie of being anything great.

    1. Though truly beautifully shot, Pan's two sided scenario with the Good vs Evil Children's-picture on the one side and a drama/war-movie on the other, provides no deeper layers. A 'what you see is what you get' type of film in which the fantasy part seemed more or less something that would look nice on the adverts in combination with a superabundance of very graphic violence in a foreign movie which offers a subterfuge to sell something slight and cursory as profound and insightful.

    2. Since there is no thread running through both the scenario's it is like watching two different movies which bear very little to each other nor compliment the other. Because I liked the fantasy part zealously better than the war/drama bit, I was very disappointed that it had no follow-through and that it in the end just seemed like a shameless cloned-off short-impression of movies like Alice in Wonderland, The Wizzard of Ozz and The never Ending Story, to name but a few, but never with a meaningful reference of any kind. It is almost like the writers hit behind the fact that they never even saw these movies.

    3.There is just nothing subtle in the story that draws you in, I found it all annoyingly superficial and cliché. It never invites you to share the little girl's fantastic world or truly reject El Capitan's actions because it is all far too black and white. Plus the film leaves no room for any other interpretation aside from the one which is already painted elaborately on its cinematic walls. Something I find quite odd since most true children's pictures have a lot underlying messages and symbolism. The more I think about it, the more this story just seems lazily written or without any terribly interesting thought behind it. -In the end of it all, there is simply no hope-..nothing more than a flipflop of any and all sappy-happy-endings Hollywood has been laying on us for years on end.

    Furthermore, with style over substance as its forté the movie tends to plod tremendously at times. And since none of the characters are really focused on, they all just seem to be stereotypes and are hence neither likable nor unlikable despite their (too) obvious good or bad demeanors. Vidal is simply bad, mom is simply weak and Ofelia was nothing more than the little girl playing with imaginary friends in the corner of the room.

    This film is alas just another example of a movie where they just don't seem to be able to get it both ways (powerful story AND powerful cinematography) which is the Achilles' heel of many a film lately but which oddly doesn't seem to bother the average moviegoer nor professional movie-critic who somehow seem to think that foreign+different=Masterpiece.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I seem to be among the only people who consider this movie to be a terrible mis-fire, on a par with Shyamalan's *Lady in the Water* and Gilliam's "The Brothers Grimm".

    So be it. I shall back that claim up.

    Many people are reportedly enjoying the movie's ability to 're-interpret traditional fairy tale motifs'.

    If only that was what del Toro was up to, here. He didn't re-interpret anything. He just grabbed a bunch of classic themes and plot points (the three tasks; the magical guide; the unexplained magic rocks that are the bane of an evil creature for some reason; the magic book that foretells the future; the golden key and the choice of key-holes; the prohibition against eating in the underworld that is broken simply because it would be no fun if it weren't; the magical creatures that adults can't see because they aren't really there; the young girl on the cusp of puberty who fears her growing sexuality and capacity for reproduction and so retreats into a fantasy world to deal with her traumatic environment; the climactic flight into a maze that is conveniently nearby) and threw them into a ridiculously drawn shadow of the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War.

    On this front, Sergi Lopez and his lame impression of Ralph Fiennes in *Schindler's List* was particularly outrageous. The points which are meant to build him into a threatening character were always taken from elsewhere, and, even worse, always CAME ACROSS as points meant to build him into a threatening character: his vaguely harassing caress of Mercedes' shoulder; his rampant chauvinism; his graphic crushing of an innocent farmer's face; his slashing at his own reflected throat with a straight razor; his tortured relationship with his dead father's watch...etc. At no time did he seem like anything more than a caricature.

    Unfortunately, this was not unusual.

    The overall weak characterization meant that any real sense of Fascist Spain was just entirely missing, and the brief fantasy sequences lacked any real resonance.

    The dinner party was meant to relate the connections between the wealthy, the church and the Fascists, but it was too short to register.

    The faun himself had few lines, and was entirely cryptic. If Ofelia was simply dreaming him up, this perhaps accounts for the fact that she was never, not for one second, surprised that a giant faun was offering her faeries and tasks, but not his complete lack of any helpful, world-building clues. And, since we are not welcomed into his world, the threat of its destruction simply doesn't matter to us.

    The predicament of Mercedes didn't make any sense. Why was she not in the mountains with her lover? Was her ability to sneak mail and keys to (hilariously flimsy) wooden doors out to the rebels really so essential? In fact, having a few female rebels would have been more authentic and less offensive than having them all chopping potatoes for the Captain. Did anyone for one second think that she would not find some use for that blade she kept tucked into her dress? Why did she not kill Vidal when he was at her mercy? She had no trouble later on. (Was it really because he needed to live in order to continue driving the plot? Because that would be pathetic.)

    Did Ofelia's mother actually say, out loud, that she married a cold, brutal psychopath who made it clear that he valued her only as a vessel for childbirth, simply because she was 'lonely'? What the hell was up with that? (I mean, as the widow of a tailor, it isn't as though she needed to marry a soldier in order to maintain her accustomed level of luxury. Why be so massively anti-feminist simply because you can?)

    The death of the doctor, who tries to make a moral statement despite offering his skills to the Fascists whom he hates, was also hackneyed. (Hint: Don't turn your 'sympathetic' character into a cowardly Fascist collaborator who is so terrified of losing his sense of privilege that he would rather euthanize rebels than fight alongside them.)

    The attempts to work in allegories of change (the death of Vidal, the fact that his son would never know of him, the sly glances at 'Red Propaganda' which claims that we are all equal) also caused me to frown.

    Franco won in '39, the 'heroic' rebels (who were just as given to atrocity) were hunted to extinction, and the Fascists ruled well into the 1970s, ruining the lives of further millions; socialism in the Spanish-speaking countries turned out to be just as bad. Just what the hell is del Toro getting at? He seems very muddled.

    Even the special effects, which are getting excellent press, were cartoonish and poorly executed. (The toad that vomited up its tongue wouldn't have been out of place in *The Phantom Menace*, nor would the fairies whom Ofelia never quite seemed to be looking at...and did I actually spot a goddamn elf-ear on Ofelia's resurrected mother? Leftover sets and props from the Lord of the Rings, I suppose.)

    The overall lesson seems to have been that innocence is lost, and death is everywhere, so the only course is to delude oneself to the point that you are willing to trust 'the voices'. Ofelia needed psychiatric treatment, not a richer fantasy life. There was no value, to my mind, in her visions or her death. And that WAS a tragedy, of a different kind than the one intended.

    I could go on but I'll stop there.

    PS. If you thought that this film was excellent, just wait until *Coraline* comes out. Then you might see a truly re-interpreted fairy tale, with a greater depth of explanation, mystery and menace.
  • The negative reviews of this film on IMDb seem to fall into two categories: a) it was too violent b) the fantasy element was too muted

    Without getting too political, worse things are going on in the world at this very moment than were depicted in this film. While many people prefer entertainment that insulates them from the harsh realities of this world, one shouldn't get so indignant when a film portrays the world for what it is. Capitán Vidal was a fictitious character, but there are plenty of people exactly like him. Humans are capable of terrible atrocities and looking the other way does nothing to improve our nature. If violence offends people so much they should do something about real violence rather than writing nasty reviews about depictions of it.

    The violence set a tone of desperation for Ofelia. Fairy tales themselves are extremely violent, and Disney cartoons are nothing like the stories they were based on. This film was rated R. What were you expecting?

    It is easier to understand people who thought the fantasy element was eclipsed, and were maybe hoping for another Narnia or one of the other countless fantasy flicks that has come out in the wake of LOTR. This film touched on many of the most fundamental themes of mythology, such as parallel worlds, dangerous tasks, hidden identities, sacrifice, and death. It did something more than the standard fantasy movie, which is part of why it was such a great film.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A fairy flies around the face of an enthralled, fairy-loving girl for the first time, and she just looks straight ahead, smiling vaguely. Giant black bugs crawl up her arms and she ignores them. A terrible monster sits quietly at a food-laden dining table but ehhhh she's hungry so no need to even keep an eye on it. BUT OH when a thing hits a guy hard in the face yes of course the face breaks and blood squishes through the ruptures and his dad cries out in anguish and tries to reach for him and then the guy gets a bullet and more blood squirts out and then the dad gets shot too and more blood squirts out. Etc. etc. for two hours. The message: Fantasy is irrelevant; guns are reality.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    You would think that, with 1000 or so positive reviews, one more would not matter? However, this is not only one of the most extraordinary films ever made, it is also a personal fave which I have seen many times.

    Comments include:

    * can Guillermo del Toro actually make a bad film? I don't think so. Because of his name on the credits I have checked out many films of his that, while not in the same class as this one, were nonetheless flawless in execution.

    * of many film I have seen about war (too many to count) this one manages to humanize the condition to a greater degree than I can recall. Each character is perfectly cast with perfectly written dialog to bring home the metaphor of trying to live your life while chaos reigns around you. A little girl with a sick pregnant mother who just lost her father and finds her step-father to be a monster ... perfect!

    * many films deliberately strive for that special "ambiguous" ending but this one nails it. I remember couples coming out out the theatre arguing over what the real purpose of the film was, what the real ending was, what the intent was, etc

    * the one single scene where the young girl has to enter a subterranean land and retrieve artifacts WITHOUT EATING THE FOOD ON THE TABLE is in many ways scarier than the scariest horror films you could name. Moreso because the audience knows how hungry she was and empathizes. It reminded me of the Cyclops scene in the 1950s 7th Voyage of Sinbad, considered a classic of its own.

    * the scenes of violence (and there are many) are done so well you can almost taste the copper in the blood on screen

    One of the best films ever made
  • tedg27 January 2007
    I get annoyed at movies that preach one thing and are themselves another.

    The story here has two components, a real and fantasy thread. The real world thread is simple. By that I mean there are no dramatic complications at all. The characters are theatrical cartoons. The situation starts out brutally and stays that way without any arc, development, evolution. It is in fact a formula movie, this thread, and one that follows a formula that is based on strict, strict boundaries. One would suspect it was written by a German, it is so regimented. One would almost believe it to be written by "The Captain," the bad guy here.

    It marches. Its unambiguous. Its final and brutal in its morality, just as the Captian is. There are only good and bad people and the bad are not only very, very bad but they get their deserts. Justice isn't nuanced here. In fact nothing at all is.

    I suppose people celebrate it for its fantasy thread. Yes, the effects are good. Yes the creepy eyeless man was creepy. Yes the Tinkerbells were Tinkerbelly. But is this in any way better than "Dark Crystal," which was similarly banal in its cosmology?

    Look, I'm one of the ones who get depressed at things like "The Matrix," but if lacking in imagination, is copying was deep, complex, manylayered. This is something that Franco would have written, and little fascist parents would have trotted to, because its all about absolutes and the inability of humans to be rich, subtle, varied beings.The best we can do, is be "innocent."

    I often can see some good in any film. But not this one. The world is too close to intolerant extremism as it is. Don't feed it by supporting this.

    Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.
An error has occured. Please try again.