Blending together the horrors of both reality & fantasy into a spellbinding tale, Pan’s Labyrinth is a blazingly original, extraordinarily artistic, technically accomplished & astonishingly beautiful film with a rare ability to immerse the grown-ups into its fantasy world in a manner that very few films of its genre can emulate, and even lesser when the story is a downright fairy tale. Imagined with a splendid vision, crafted with immense care, presented with magnificent artistry, infused with poetic beauty & ingeniously balancing its mythical world with real events, Pan’s Labyrinth isn’t only the finest film in the filmmaking career of writer-director Guillermo del Toro but also qualifies as one of the greatest fantasy films to ever grace the cinema canvas.
Set in the post-civil war Spain of 1944, Pan’s Labyrinth tells the story of Ofelia, a young girl in love with fairy tales, who travels with her pregnant mother Carmen to live with her new stepfather Captain Vidal, a ruthless officer assigned to root out the rebels in the region & who is also the father of Carmen’s unborn child. On her very first night, Ofelia encounters a fairy who takes her to an overgrown abandoned labyrinth where she meets a mysterious faun creature, who tells her that she is the long-lost princess of an underground kingdom that is awaiting her return but before she can do that, she has to prove her royalty first by accomplishing three gruesome tasks before the full moon is upon them. The rest of the film is about Ofelia seeking to finish the tasks while encountering the nightmares of both fantasy & reality before her time is up.
Written & directed by Guillermo del Toro, Pan’s Labyrinth presents the director in top form as he leaves no stone unturned to make this film beautiful & disturbing at the same time while also employing various mythical symbolism into its plot. Also, by cleverly interweaving the fantasy world with the real world events, del Toro makes sure that the film is able to connect with even those viewers who are not very fond of this genre. And the contributions of its vivid cinematography, stunning make-up, brilliant visual effects & magnificent art direction that brings the labyrinth & the fantasy world to life in stunning detail can’t be ignored. Entire film is gorgeously photographed and the colour is really well-balanced between the real & fantasy world. The film also makes splendid use of make-up, animatronics & CGI to bring its magical creatures to life.
The performance by the cast is highly responsible for the wonderful emotional journey & experience this film provides. Ivana Baquero effortlessly captures the essence of Ofelia, and knowing that her performance is most vital for the film to work, delivers on all fronts. Sergi López plays the sadistic Captain Vidal and, with his brilliant portrayal of a ruthless & absolute evil character, gives the most disturbing performance in the film. Doug Jones plays two characters in the film. The first is a Faun, who guides Ofelia to the fantasy world. Second is the Pale Man, a monstrous creature who has an appetite for children. And he truly nailed each one of them as his rendition of these mythical creatures is no short of wonderment. Maribel Verdú plays Mercedes, Vidal’s housekeeper & a spy who is working for the rebels. And the rest of the supporting cast also chipped in with fine contributions to keep the acting department complaint-free.
The mesmerizing score of Pan’s Labyrinth, composed by Javier Navarrete, is centered around one haunting lullaby that resonates throughout the film and keeps this tale true to its fantasy roots even during the violent scenes. The wonderful set pieces & a story that’s simply a fairy tale may seem very tempting to bring your kids along to watch this film with but it’s certainly not a movie for the younger audience. It may seem childlike but it’s never childish. It has a dark, gruesome subject matter and for the major part of its runtime, is very violent, sad & disturbing. On an overall scale, Pan’s Labyrinth is an aesthetic, artistic, beautiful & magical piece of cinema which deserves to be seen by anyone who wants their films to be something more than mere entertainment. And to sum up in one sentence, this exhilarating masterpiece by Guillermo del Toro is a fairy tale that is made exclusively for grown-ups and is highly deserving of its universal acclaim & numerous accolades. Highly recommended.