Review Rating: 9 out of 10
Swept up in the aftermath of her domineering stepfather’s post-war Facist oppression of the Spanish countryside, young Ofelia discovers the Labyrinth and is led on her own series of adventures by the guardian Pan.
This is not a movie for children. That said and hopefully understood, Pan’s Labyrinth is an astounding work of fantasy and harsh reality, intertwined in a story that really sticks it in and breaks it off.
Starting off with Ofelia’s stepfather, commonly known around the household as the Captain. He locks up all the food and supplies for the surrounding countryside in his own stable, tells the doctor that if his pregnant and sick wife dies to save his son first, tortures a stuttering enemy he captured, and plays mind games with Ofelia. All in a days work, you know.
Poor Ofelia has to deal with such hard things around her: a sick mother pregnant with a brother that looks like he’s trying to kill her, her potentially deadly and obviously sick-in-the-head stepfather, guns and horses just outside the front door, and only then, when real-life is established as horrible, does Ofelia find the Labyrinth and Pan himself.
And just so there’s no mistake, the Labyrinth isn’t sunshine and faeries either. Pan himself is a very tall creature of nature the way he ought to be, towering and primal, commanding and full of presence. Pan tells Ofelia that she is the rightful daughter of the King in a completely other and fantastical world, and in order to get back there she has to complete three tasks. First there’s getting a key from a huge horrid toad that’s poisoning a magickal tree (the stunted and gnarled tree often used on the movie posters, for you trivia buffs). Then Ofelia has to go to this disgusting dining hall guarded by what looks like a horror from Clive Barker’s imagination and retrieve a dagger, but don’t eat or touch anything. And the third task I’ll leave without a spoiler, simply because this movie deserves a few surprises.
Fantastic, frightening and fascinating, Pan’s Labyrinth is probably the best and most surprising foreign film I’ve seen in years. Go see it in theatres, buy it when it comes out on DVD, heck, pre-order it!
Enter the fairy-tale world of Pan’s Labyrinth on Amazon Prime Video now!