Reviews

Pan's Labyrinth

5

A film of rare beauty, intelligence and grace, Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth reaps further reward upon each viewing. Steeped in childhood wonder, first-time viewers can’t help but be absorbed by the story of little girl Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), lost between her rock of a fearsome fantasy land and the hard place of wicked fascist stepdad Captain Vidal (Sergi López). Set the challenge of completing three tasks to become the Princess of the Underworld, Ofelia is hamstrung between horror and horror...

Second time round, del Toro’s craft comes to the fore. He is a meticulous cutter, splicing an angry Pan (Doug Jones) in his labyrinth, turning nasty and scaring the colour from Ofelia’s cheeks, with marauding soldiers systemically ridding Spain of all that is decent and good. Third time, watch it for Ofelia’s lament, witnessing how useless she becomes, destitute in both worlds, her entire life conspiring to crush in on her. Everything – fantasy and reality – is out of her control. Consider also how the scary fairytale, set in a damning era of Iberian history often forgotten in place of greater, Germanic terrors, must play to the Spanish. With no history of fascist rule, us Brits have never been engulfed with the fear that our neighbours may snitch and tear our families apart. It’s a tribute to del Toro, then, that even the most politically neutral among us can’t help but be transported, by images of fat frogs, dungeons and the saggy-skinned Pale Man (Jones, again).

Fourth time... Oh, you get it; just watch. Again and again. Like Pan’s labyrinth itself, it is a film whose secrets remain hidden until fully explored – that one cinema viewing not doing it anywhere near enough justice. Watch it in the comfort of your own home; especially with the impressive double-disc DVD package, crammed with a Del Toro commentary, Pan’s featurettes and some of the director’s original drawings and lose yourself in the Mexican director’s feverish, wondrous imagination.

 

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