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5 reviews, 65 user ratings

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Pan's Labyrinth
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by Rob Gonsalves

"John Larroquette's sign said it best: This is a dark ride."
5 stars

The Mexican fantasist Guillermo del Toro has two careers. In Hollywood, he makes diverting but ultimately callow fare like 'Blade II' and 'Hellboy.' Back home, he crafts dark, thoughtful fables like 'Cronos,' 'The Devil’s Backbone,' and now 'Pan’s Labyrinth.'

I much prefer del Toro’s Mexican work, away from Hollywood bean-counters who would insist on stripping the fairy-tale illogic from his films. “What’s the deal with all the fascists?” they might say. “Can’t the thing with eyes in his palms be nice? And why does it have to be in Spanish?”

Set after the Spanish Civil War, when Franco was sending troops into the hills to smoke out any remaining rebels, Pan’s Labyrinth presents humanity at its cruellest and kindest. This is a world in which a little girl can stick a living mandrake root in a bowl of milk, put it under her ailing mother’s bed, and feed it with her own blood so that her mom can get better. It is also a world in which a sadistic captain shows a prospective torture victim which tools he plans to use, and at which point in the proceedings his victim’s confession will finally be convincing. Crudely put, Pan’s Labyrinth is Schindler’s List meets MirrorMask, in which the reality an imaginative girl seeks to escape through fantasy is harsh and foul, and sometimes the fantasy is, too.

Carmen (Ariadna Gil) is pregnant with the child of the aforementioned sadist, Captain Vidal (Sergi López), who has insisted that she be delivered to the mill he and his men are protecting. Carmen brings her daughter Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), a 12-year-old girl from Carmen’s previous marriage to a now-deceased tailor. Ofelia hates her stepfather and hates that her beloved mother is stuck with him, but she loves her future brother, who hears Ofelia’s stories in the womb. Ofelia encounters some buzzing insectoid creatures, who soon resolve themselves into fairies out of one of Ofelia’s books, and eventually they lead her into an enchanted labyrinth ruled by a growling faun. Here she receives three tasks, as if her life weren’t complicated enough.

Del Toro constructs Pan’s Labyrinth as two states of being, not always in opposition. The various creatures Ofelia meets, especially the ghastly one sitting at a banquet table just waiting for a hungry little girl to steal some grapes, are meant to be as terrifying as the ruthless fascist soldiers. Women are pushed around by males both human and inhuman. There’s a sliver of hope in Captain Vidal’s housekeeper Mercedes (the excellent Maribel Verdú, from Y Tu Mamá Tambien), whose sympathy lies with the rebels. Is Ofelia’s fantasy world real, or just in her head? It’s real to her, and it’s made real to us by virtue of its very unpleasantness. This is a fantasia only a traumatized little girl — or a director fascinated with monsters with horns and monsters in jackboots — could weave.

The movie will probably strike some viewers as needlessly ugly and violent. I suppose we really didn’t need the scene of a man’s mouth widened by a knife, and the subsequent scene wherein he stitches the wound in horror-movie close-up, not to mention the detail of his sipping a shot of whiskey that leaks out. Some of Pan’s Labyrinth is almost punitively painful; these Mexican directors, like Alfonso Cuarón in Children of Men and Alejandro González Iñárritu in Babel, spray the camera lens with gore (literally, in Cuarón’s case) in the sanguinary Catholic tradition of a lot of Mexican art.

Del Toro’s fairy tales are red in tooth and claw; those who seek fizzier, stomach-calming seltzer at the movies are advised to look elsewhere. Others, like me, will surrender gratefully to the black and bloody enchantment.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14849&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/28/07 21:14:37
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/18/18 Marinah Visually mesmerizing tale of Death to Imagination,slaughter ID: mind cnfrm/cntrl paramount. 5 stars
9/21/17 morris campbell good horror fantasy check it out 4 stars
1/30/16 Alexis H Cold reality and dangerous fantasy collide in the fight for freedom 4 stars
11/12/13 Vanessa Campos I loved this movie for the fantasy and reality it portrayed. 5 stars
8/12/11 jiropan best dark fantasy film of all time..... 5 stars
5/15/11 stephen nettles OUTSTANDING 5 stars
9/26/10 KingNeutron Really disturbing in parts, but well made -- Note, Subtitled 4 stars
9/03/10 Simon Strange yet so fresh and intriguing the 1st time I saw it, 2nd viewing confirms its beauty 5 stars
6/05/10 User Name Del Toro magnificantly illuminates the grimness of reality and Olivia's fantasy. 5 stars
9/16/09 bored mom A fucking awesome psychological fantasy allegory set in fascist-era Spain 5 stars
6/15/09 MP Bartley A seriously impressive achievement. 5 stars
2/16/09 dolph G Spanish is the best language for the flim and one of the greats!! 5 stars
2/13/09 Raul Valdez Jr I dont give a sh!t what you all think but this movie needs to be in english 5 stars
2/29/08 Tammy Kennedy When i first got this movie i thought it was for kids, wow I was wrong. I liked it though 4 stars
2/09/08 R.W.Welch Creative stuff, tho a shade overdone at times. 4 stars
11/17/07 Brian Mckay "Bridge to Genocide-ia" is more like it - very dark and gritty film full of metaphors 4 stars
9/17/07 Axel A beautiful fantastical horrific sad movie.. BEAUTIFUL!! 5 stars
9/15/07 David Cohen Wouldn't call it a masterpiece, but I enjoyed it 4 stars
9/02/07 Kendra A good movie just a lil gory 4 stars
7/31/07 Shana Poorly written, especially the fantasy part which isn't really tied in well. Almost cheesy 2 stars
7/28/07 steven kelly Powerful, haunting, beautifully filmed; a masterpiece. 5 stars
7/11/07 Hello Stranger why would you rate a film based on how gory it is? idiots. this is a great take on fantasy 5 stars
7/06/07 AnnieG Can't understand what people love about this film ... it's lame fantasy and too violent 3 stars
7/02/07 William Goss A grand historical fable worth getting lost in. Just spectacular all-around. 5 stars
6/15/07 Mark Hambly Agree with all the good comments - Fantastic and mesmerising dark fantasy fable - Watch it! 5 stars
6/08/07 kalika Too gory, story line was under developed 2 stars
5/25/07 tony del Toro fulfills on the promise of Devil's Backbone; superior to Cronos 5 stars
5/25/07 Jiz Strong characters, great atmosphere, but a little too drawn-out. 4 stars
5/24/07 Tracey Chambers great movie. dark and very, creepy. 5 stars
5/21/07 Dark Enchantress one of the best films ever! 5 stars
5/21/07 action movie fan good special effects but story was much too lame 3 stars
5/16/07 Quigley Del Toro finally came through for me. Lives up to the title "masterpiece" in every way. 5 stars
4/13/07 Rayven Simply the best movie I have seen in a long long while-a masterpiece!! 5 stars
4/05/07 The Velcro Warlock One friggin' wierd film. Stays with you, but not necessarily in a good way. 2 stars
4/01/07 dtx120 Artsy, brutal, conflicting, and not nearly what I expected. One of the best of 06. 5 stars
3/13/07 Kerri Awesome film! 5 stars
3/12/07 guisada wow 5 stars
3/01/07 Anti-Xen Not bad at all, but lacking a certain something... 3 stars
2/28/07 malcolm creepy, captivating, with gorgeous set pieces 5 stars
2/27/07 Keystra Williams Got screwed out of the big prize on sunday! Boo! 5 stars
2/27/07 Jennifer Spry A beautiful dream 5 stars
2/20/07 Beau one of the best top ten movies i have ever seen in this decade, great acting 5 stars
2/18/07 dmitry Fantastic, makes "Children of Men" seem like a cartoon in comparison 5 stars
2/10/07 Jim Good, but not as good as Devil's Backbone; still better than 90% of Hollywood junk 4 stars
2/10/07 jcjs wonderful, just a masterpiece..has to be his best 5 stars
2/08/07 The chode Best movie of 2006, hands down. 5 stars
2/07/07 Dark Enchantress It was a great movie, but i thought there should of been more fantasy in it! 5 stars
2/07/07 toni amazing but with an underlining sadness 5 stars
2/03/07 The Talking Elbow Maybe not for everybody, it's sad but remarkable. 5 stars
1/29/07 Kate A STUNNING MASTERPIECE 5 stars
1/29/07 del Cranky and lee should both be shot in the genitals. 5 stars
1/28/07 TyrantisTerror Art in every positive sense of the word. 5 stars
1/28/07 Lisa Craven Loved it, very entertaining, kept me interested. 4 stars
1/28/07 Cranky Great when on crack, stupid illegal language which screwed it up! 1 stars
1/27/07 lee boring and belligerantly violet with no meaning behind its entirety 2 stars
1/25/07 Arlette Alice in Wonderland on crack. Great juxtaposition of two worlds. Loved the Dorothy "red sho 5 stars
1/25/07 Marty amazing movie. still can't believe that bitch ate that grape. 5 stars
1/22/07 Bitchflaps The feminist angle and the characters are underdeveloped, the allegory is overstated. 2 stars
1/21/07 Rob Loved it. Best film I've seen this year so far. 5 stars
1/20/07 Max I'm proud this Mexican film is touching hearts all over the world 5 stars
1/20/07 Ole Man Bourbon Very well done, entertaining throughout. 5 stars
1/13/07 hanabatake amazing, moving, horrifying. I can't get the images out of my mind. 5 stars
1/12/07 Deadly Assassin One of the best fantasy films ever...much better than that D& D crap !!!! 5 stars
1/09/07 kris Highly original, sad and brutal. An attack on fascism and Catholic Church. 5 stars
12/29/06 lee Best movie of the year!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
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  29-Dec-2006 (R)
  DVD: 15-May-2007



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