Monday, June 18, 2007

Movie review: Ofelia in Wonderland

pan's labyrinth dvd coverA long time ago, in the underground realm, where there are no lies or pain, there lived a Princess who dreamed of the human world. She dreamed of blue skies, soft breeze, and sunshine. One day, eluding her keepers, the Princess escaped. Once outside, the brightness blinded her and erased every trace of the past from her memory. She forgot who she was and where she came from. Her body suffered cold, sickness, and pain. Eventually, she died. However, her father, the King, always knew that the Princess' soul would return, perhaps in another body, in another place, at another time. And he would wait for her, until he drew his last breath, until the world stopped turning...

Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and her pregnant mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) arrive at their new home in the Spanish countryside. It is 1944 and Ofelia’s new stepfather is an army captain in Franco’s fascist regime. Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez) and his small army of men have set up camp to drive the remaining Resistance fighters from the hills.

Ofelia is a bright girl who is knowledgeable in the ways of fairy tales. Her mother is for the most part understanding about her flights of fancy, knowing this is Ofelia’s way of handling the death of her father and their new less-than-ideal living arrangements. Truth is, her stepfather cares not for her or her mother, but only for the son he is sure Carmen is carrying.

Upon her arrival, a stick insect follows Ofelia with more attention than a bug should. That night she is visited by the bug that turns into a fairy at her coaxing, and soon she finds herself being led to a labyrinth and her first of many meetings with a faun who has been waiting on her return for a long, long time.

The classic number in fairy tales is three, and so it is in this one. Ofelia must complete three tasks before the moon is full in order to claim her rightful place at her parents’ side in the Underworld. Before that time, though, there will be much violence, betrayal, death and disobedience, and choices that no eleven-year-old girl should ever have to make.

Pan’s Labyrinth (El Labertino del Fauno) is a perfect example of fairy tales and violence co-existing. Would the works of Mother Goose or the Brothers Grimm have left such a lasting impression if it weren’t for the abused and neglected stepchildren and orphans trapped in their stories and our empathy for them?

Parents be warned: Pan's Labyrinth is actually a fairy tale for adults. The movie is rated R for its graphic violence. Not to mention the character called Pale Man, the creepiest child-eating creature I've ever had the displeasure of watching, who is sure to be the star of my nightmares for some time to come.


Director Guillermo del Toro received 22 minutes of applause for Pan's Labyrinth at the Cannes Film Festival. See for yourself how his other movies stack up.

The Official Website for Pan's Labyrinth

Pan's Labyrinth trailer

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