A magical journey that blends together fantasy and reality.

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Cast: Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Ivana Baquero, Doug Jones, Ariadna Gil, Álex Angulo

Genre: Fantasy, Drama, War

Pan’s Labyrinth tells a dark yet beautiful tale. Its outstanding visuals are matched by its imaginative story that is full of heart and soul. The acting performances are also heartfelt. The film manages to avoid various clichés that have been associated with fantasy films to achieve something new and special.

At the very start of the movie, a fairy tale about Princess Moanna is narrated. Her father is the king of the ‘underworld’. One day, Princess Moanna goes to the human world where she becomes a mortal and dies. However, her father believes that one day her spirit will return so he builds labyrinths at various places around the world in anticipation of her return.

Then, the actual events of the film start. The movie is set in Spain in 1944, five years after the civil war took place in the country. Thus, political drama is one of the core aspects of the film. A young girl named Ofelia is travelling with her pregnant mother to her stepfather, Captain Vidal. Ofelia is a girl who is fond of books and stories. Ivana Baquero gives a great performance as the young Ofelia. You can really see the innocence and wonder in her eyes.

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When they reach Captain Vidal’s place, we gradually get to know about the dark realities of the ongoing political turmoil. Vidal is a sadistic leader who hunts down and ruthlessly kills rebels or anyone else who comes in his way. It is apparent that he is a believer of the ideology of fascism. It is also apparent that Vidal is more concerned about the expected birth of his son than his wife’s well-being. On the other hand, Ofelia is having a tough time settling into her new ‘home’.

One night, an insect (which also looks like a fairy) leads Ofelia into a labyrinth nearby. There she meets a faun who is delighted to see her and believes her to be the spirit of Princess Moanna (mentioned in the fairy tale). The faun gives her three tasks to perform to acquire immortality and escape from the human world. This is where the fantasy side of the movie kicks off! Performing these tasks leads Ofelia on a magical adventure where she goes through many obstacles and meets various creatures. The film is backed up by some great sets, cinematography and visual effects that give life to the fantasy world.

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The faun

Back to the real world, the tension between Captain Vidal’s troops and the rebels is causing a lot of violent clashes. This signifies a major theme of the film. The quest that Ofelia has to go on to complete the three tasks acts as an escape for her from the harsh conditions of the real world. As Ofelia’s mother says at one point in the film; “You’re getting older, and you’ll see that life isn’t like your fairy tales. The world is a cruel place. And you’ll learn that, even if it hurts.”

Everything about the Pan’s Labyrinth feels so fresh and original when compared to other fantasy movies. Instead of being melodramatic, it showcases raw emotions. It also doesn’t shy away from darkness and violence. Moreover, it effortlessly manages to go through the stories of reality and fantasy, side by side.

Overall, Pan’s Labyrinth is a beautiful film, both visually and emotionally. Packed with a multitude of themes, the story progresses with utmost finesse and is brought to life by the imagination of director Guillermo del Toro. Just like our young protagonist, Ofelia, we are bound to be left amazed by the events of the film.