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800 of 885 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounding.
This is the way fairy tales used to be -- before they got bleached, pressed, and de-linted by half-wits trying to protect tender ears. Before they got Disney-fied. Sure, there's violence here, some of it shocking, but none of it gratuitous. Could it give a kid nightmares? Maybe. But given today's pablum stories, maybe it's about time.

Pan's Labyrinth takes us...
Published on January 27, 2007 by Maine Writer

31 of 45 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars somewhat less than the sum of its parts

One of the cardinal rules of any good fairy tale is that, no matter how fantastical it becomes, it must make sure to keep one foot firmly planted in reality so that the story can more easily connect with the audience. In the case of "Pan's Labyrinth," however, that foot may be so firmly planted in the real world that it actually prevents the movie from...
Published on February 24, 2007 by Roland E. Zwick

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800 of 885 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounding., January 27, 2007
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This is the way fairy tales used to be -- before they got bleached, pressed, and de-linted by half-wits trying to protect tender ears. Before they got Disney-fied. Sure, there's violence here, some of it shocking, but none of it gratuitous. Could it give a kid nightmares? Maybe. But given today's pablum stories, maybe it's about time.

Pan's Labyrinth takes us directly into the subconscious, and into the storyforms that infuse all of the great myths, fairy tales, and religions. It's a rich and satisfying stew of symbolism, mystery, and redemption. Multilayered and inspiring, it's a film you'll want to see again. It's hard not to gush, but it's been so long since a movie this good has made it into the quasi-mainstream.

What makes Pan's Labyrinth most effective is it's juxtaposition of harsh "reality" and the mysterious world that lives side by side with it. The heroine, a young girl who may carry a magical seed of immortality (the soul of god's only child who once ventured into the world of men, suffered, and died long ago), is contacted by shapeshifting fairies who lead her to a faun (much like the mythological Pan) who says she may reclaim her throne and escape the mortal world by performing three tasks. The faun in Pan's Labyrinth is every bit as complex as the mythological Pan, a creature perhaps older than the gods themselves. There's something sly, and perhaps even sexual about this elegant and almost alien faun, as he represents the forces at play inside this sensitive young girl. In fact, like every good fairy tale, all of the strange, wondrous, and chilling creatures represent facets of the subconscious, including baby-eating ghouls, flitting fairies, and gluttonous toads.

Pan's Labyrinth is a commentary on the resiliency and power of the human imagination, and takes us to the place where dreams are spun and the great heroic tale of overcoming (of the self and the world) takes root. That spark of the divine in all of us -- or at least the hope of it -- powers the great story of our lives, and we need tales like this to remind of us of the magic and transformative power of story telling. In the flickering light of the theater, like some great hearth around which we've gathered, Pan's Labyrinth took me back to my childhood, and made me think of so many of the great stories I'd read over the years -- of demonic dogs with saucer-sized eyes, of child-stealing trolls, and evil stepmothers. And, finally, of the champions who venture down into those great cracks in the Earth, where the roots of mythic trees twist and wind and the greatest treasure of all can be found: the noble, heroic, and undying spirit that lies within us.
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143 of 158 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Haunting and Beautifully Crafted Film, May 2, 2007
First of all, this film is not suitable for children. It is intended to be an adult fairytale with a young girl as its protagonist. Everyone I know who have viewed this film has loved it, including my 75 year old father, who is not really into foreign films or art films.

The is not suitable for children for a few scenes of torture and violence. While difficult to watch, it serves to create a sense of real peril, ugliness, cruelty and evil that propels our protagonist to seek comfort in another world of grotesque beauty. She is a young girl in the midst of a brutal civil war where both sides reside under her roof, and the only reason she is safe is because her mother is pregnant by a fascist general. There is a sense that this safety is precarious and could evaporate quickly due to circumstances beyond her control.

The protagonists other world is sparked by a discovery of an old labyrinth by the old house where the general holds his position and has a doctor see to the pregnant mother's ailing health.

This other world that is created is amazingly done and is beautiful in its grotesquely Gothic way. The original score is perfect for the film with its haunting humming lullaby. The young girl is perfect young heroine that is flawed but lovable. You want her to fulfill her destiny and escape to her throne in a magical place. The rest of the cast are amazing showing the full range of humanity in a time of war from immense cruelty to amazing courage and compassion. The film itself has a great sense of pacing, almost poetic writing, and is able to keep up the feeling of suspense.

The movie is sad, beautiful, cruel, agonizing, and has kept haunting me. The film made me cry and at times took my breath away. It made me feel great to see such a well-made movie in the era of over hyped corporate films. This had the craftsmanship of an expert watchmaker.

The lullaby still lingers in my mind.
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91 of 101 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Into the labyrinth, October 12, 2007
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This review is from: Pan's Labyrinth [HD DVD] (HD DVD)
If anyone wants to know where the dark, creepy fairy tales of old went, here's a hint: Guillermo del Toro is doing a pretty good job with the fairy tales for adults.

"Pan's Labyrinth" ("El Laberinto del Fauno") is a sequel of sorts to "The Devil's Backbone," a magical realism film about the Spanish Civil War. But this movie takes us deeper into a world that is half real, half ominous fairy tale, with a unique and imaginative story and some really excellent acting -- in short, a triumph.

Time and place: 1944, Spain. Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and her very pregnant mother travel to meet her new stepfather, the brutal and murderous Captain Vidal (Sergi López). Ofelia loathes her new stepfather, but is transfixed by the eerie forests around them -- and one night she is visited by a fairy, and encounters a giant faun who tells her that she is Princess Moanna of the netherworld, and must return there.

To do so, he tells her that she must do three things, and gives her a strange book. Ofelia menages first task, but is frightened out of her wits by the second task, which involves a hideous monster with eyes in its hands. Even worse, her mother's pregnancy is getting more dangerous. As the guerillas and the fascists clash, Ofelia faces being trapped outside the netherworld forever... and being offered a terrible choice if she wants to get in.

Fairy tales have become cleaned-up and cutesy over time, so that children can read them without nightmares. But del Toro knows that the best fairy tales are the eerie, bizarre ones for adults, that are connected somehow to the real world. That is what makes "Pan's Labyrinth" so brilliantly dark and heartfelt.

Del Toro obviously crafted this with care, directing it in a dreamlike style and brilliant visuals. The eerie atmosphere of Ofelia's wanderings -- the delicate yet menacing faun, the chalk doors, the monuments, and the pasty nightmare with eyes in its palms -- is both a contrast and a parallel with the everyday world, which Ofelia hopes to escape.

At first, it seems like the post-Civil War and fairy tale stories don't mesh, until you see that the "real world" story is Ofelia's motivation to escape from all the fear, pain and sorrow. But Del Toro's biggest triumph is an ending that is beautifully bittersweet, and which turns out to hinge on Ofelia's newborn brother.

But del Toro's biggest triumph is in the instant connection we feel to Ofelia, with her love of the fantastical and her desire to go somewhere "safe." Baquero is absolutely wonderful in this, as a girl who isn't entirely of this world -- in her heart, she belongs somewhere beyond. And López is the ideal villain -- you spend the whole movie wanting to see him gruesomely killed.

Half "Mirrormask" and half gritty war story, "Pan's Labyrinth" is one of the best fantasy stories in years -- dark, passionate and beautifully made. Definitely a great movie.
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51 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bad Advertising, Ignorant Reviews, A Misunderstood Masterpiece, April 25, 2007
This review is from: Pan's Labyrinth (DVD)
As I write this review, I am listening to the Pan's Labyrinth OST for the sixth time on the film's official website[...]. Without question in my mind, Pan's Labyrinth definitely has the best soundtrack of 2006, perhaps even 2007, though as of this review the year is not yet ended.

Like most movies, I read many reviews of Pan's Labyrinth before deciding to see it. As a long-time admirer of Roger Ebert's reviews, I took his praise of the film seriously and decided to dole out seven bucks. I missed the opening shot. Perhaps it was best that way, since it would have probably influenced my perception of the rest of the movie.

Pan's Labyrinth was advertised as a fairy tale for adults and the trailers were predominantly concerned with the handful of fanciful creatures and little Ofelia. Coincidentally, a few months later, another movie used the same advertising ploy to draw in viewers. Many complained that the trailers for Bridge To Terabithia made it out to be another Narnia and thus misleading, even though they could have saved themselves the trouble by simply reading a synopsis of the novel the movie was based on. The parallels between Pan's Labyrinth and Terabithia struck me as sign that American cinema was veering towards a precipice over which it would plummet into the abyss of Roald Dahlian theatrics. Not surprisingly, criticisms for Pan's Labyrinth and Terabithia were very similar -- the ads were misleading, there was not enough fantasy and too much reality. Again, they should have simply done some reading before going to the movie. The old addage isn't always true, ignorance isn't always bliss.

Much of the criticism surrounding Pan's Labyrinth is directed towards the violence and adverse ratio of fantasy to war, as well as use of subtitles (Americans hate reading, it seems). Both complaints show a widespread lack of understanding about some of the film's fine points and overall ignorance. With regard to the violence, Pan's Labyrinth is indeed a violent, gory movie. Seeing as how it's set during wartime, specifically WWII, it is really no different than other wartime films such as Glory or the History Channel mini-series Band Of Brothers. War is grisly and Guillermo del Toro doesn't pussyfoot away from that fact. He includes scenes of gore which, aside from that of Captain Vidal stitching his mouth back together - a sign of Vidal's stout resilience and possibly even an allusion to the Joker's smile - could hardly be considered excessive. Nobody loses a head or limb; guts don't spill out all over the ground; nails don't protrude out of eye sockets -- the level of gore in Pan's Labyrinth is hardly worth criticizing.

Captain Vidal, the main antagonist, is what many would consider truly evil. Some argue his character is unrealistically evil, that he's too sadistic. It seems people are wont to forget Newton's rule of thumb -- for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Throughout the film, action and reaction drive the military and rebels. Action, reaction. Push, pull. One thing leads to another. Captain Vidal commands a military outpost resisting Republican rebels. His father died in Morocco and the death greatly affected Vidal. He takes his frustration out on the rebels. As a military man, he knows there is a possibility he might be killed, so he yearns for an heir. Enter his wife Carmen, pregnant with Vidal's son, or so he likes to believe. The camp's physician warns against presuming the child's gender, compounding Vidal's stress. Action, reaction. Push, pull. Carmen brings her daughter Ofelia. Had she been a boy instead, perhaps Vidal would have accepted her. Or perhaps not. Action, reaction. Enter the faeries.

The beauty of this film is del Toro's weaving of reality and fantasy. As I said, I missed the first minute of the movie and as such may not have put it in the correct perspective. The first faerie appears separate from Ofelia as a mantis which follows her to the camp. One night it visits her in bed where she asks, "Did you follow me here? Are you a fairy?" at which point she shows the mantis a picture of a fairy and it turns into one, albeit with an insectoid head. Del Toro claims this was intended to distinguish his faeries from the classic beautified representations. Indeed, nothing in the fantasy realm is beautiful to the viewer, but rather grotesque and at times fearsome. Everything in the supernatural realm mirrors the world in which Ofelia lives. There is nothing wholly beautiful. Even the beauty of child-bearing is marred by pain and blood, as Carmen suffers numerous maladies as she struggles to carry Vidal's heir to term.

The supernatural never appear in the same scene as any other character except Ofelia, excluding the faerie's nocturnal visit while Carmen was fast asleep. Aware of this, it's easy for the viewer to perceive everything as being in Ofelia's head, but the two worlds collide when Ofelia puts a mandrake root under her ailing mother's bed and Carmen gradually recovers, much to everyone's amazement. But Vidal, ever distrustful of Ofelia, mistakes her actions as an attempt on the unborn heir's life. Carmen defends her daughter and after Vidal leaves the room admonishes her for believing in such superstitions. She then tosses the mandrake root into the fireplace, at which point she immediately goes into labor and soon after dies during childbirth. Without Carmen to protect Ofelia, Vidal links the young girl with a treacherous maid and has Ofelia imprisoned in her room. At wit's end, Ofelia cries out for help and is visited once more by the ambiguous faun.

It is at this point which the recurring assumption that Pan's Labyrinth is about escapism becomes fundamentally incorrect. In review after review, the fantasy realm is just that -- fantasy. It's all in Ofelia's head as a means for her to escape the harsh realities of the embattled world around her. In actuality, Ofelia not only brings the real world into the "fantasy realm," but she brings fantasy into the real. The labyrinth itself is real. The faeries are insectoid. The toad was inspired by Vidal's umbrella. The terrifying Pale Man was an amalgram of metaphors. And her home kingdom... To mention anything about that would be a spoiler. But after she has been locked in her room, the faun visits Ofelia and gives her a quest: "Fetch your brother and bring him to the labyrinth as quickly as possible." At this point fantasy and reality collide head-on. Ofelia escapes from her prison through supernatural means and kidnaps her brother, thus involving Captain Vidal in the mythical quest.

Escapism -- the desire to retreat into imaginative entertainment to escape the harshness of reality. Escapism is sitting in front of a television eight hours a day instead of going out partying. Escapism is chatting or writing lengthy reviews on Amazon instead of hanging out with friends. Escapism is definitely not what Pan's Labyrinth is about. For Ofelia, reality and fantasy are one and the same.

And when all is said and done and the credits roll, you may find yourself questioning your own beliefs. What is real? What is fantasy? And just who really had the most fanciful thoughts? Ofelia with her fairy kingdom? The rebels with their fight for freedom from national oppression? Or Captain Vidal with his unwaivering desire for a son to follow in his footsteps?
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heroism or Humanism?, July 28, 2008
Giordano Bruno (Here, There, and Everywhere) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Pan's Labyrinth (DVD)
Everybody's seen it. There are 650 reviews already. I don't need to recount the plot, do I?

My take on this film is colored by my years of visiting and living in Spain, from the first time in 1965 until spring of 2007. The content of a film is what the viewer thinks when she/he watches it. I thought of Franco and of Franco's special church-haunted fascism. Does Franco rhyme with macho? Close enough. Franquismo was about masculine honor, including the very masculine honor of God the Father as conceived by the Franquistas. I carry a fairly passionate hatred for Franquismo in my conscience, as passionate as that of most Spaniards today. That emotion certainly colored my experience of Pan's Labyrinth.

It's a film about the cost of heroism in terms of humanism. The two women characters are heroic in their loyalties and in their acceptance of suffering. The Communist guerillas are heroic in their stubborn and futile resistance to tyranny and brutality, but they are mere stock figures, scarcely individuals, scarcely at risk of self-doubt, mor eprops than characters. The doctor is a reluctant but unwavering hero, but he's a minor character. That leaves the girl Ofelia and the sadistic beast of fascist officer, Captain Vidal. The girl fantasizes heroism, and her fantasy is a story of its own. But the Captain is a flesh-and-blood human, the very worst exemplar of humanity at its most inhumane. Sergi Lopez is the star of this film, in my eyes, the masterfully acted embodiment of fascism in all its hatefulness. His concept of heroic honor, of the "real man's" heroic death, is the backdrop for every other character's actions, including the girl's fantasies. You out there in the audience? You want to understand fascism? Study Captain Vidal.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply...A Masterpiece, May 2, 2007
Gibby (Muskegon, MI United States) - See all my reviews
One of the most beautiful, haunting, heart-breaking and, ultimately, exhilarating films I've ever seen (4 times in a theater, alone). This is great film-making that will creep back into your thoughts long after you've seen it - and it will make you embarrassed about that last piece of Hollywood bilge you saw. At it's core is an uncanny performance by a young lady named Ivana Baquero as Ofelia that is so honest and brave that it will break your heart AND lift you up. The director Guillermo Del Toro deftly balances the ugliness of fascist, war-torn Spain and the fantasy world that may be Ophelia's refuge without undermining either.

If you treasure great film, you will want to hold on to this one. It's a gem.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great...!, June 4, 2007
Alonso Maisterrena (México, D.F. Mexico) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Pan's Labyrinth (DVD)
I really liked this movie. First of all it's not in the tradition of The Lord of the Rings, I duno where that idea came from. The movie portraits the alternative reality of a girl living in the very violent civil war in Spain. The necesity of creating a place where one can be sure as a child, the importance of imagination and how kids deal with the violent enviroment sourounding them. Also the performances and visual effects are awesome.

Not for everyone, since it can be very violent, but at the same time very beautiful and touching..
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Breathtaking!, May 21, 2009
Kona (Emerald City) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Pan's Labyrinth (DVD)
It is 1944, and 12-year old Ofelia and her mother are going to a military outpost in the Spanish countryside to live with her new stepfather, a sadistic army captain. There, Ofelia discovers an old stone maze that leads to an underground world of fairies and adventures while above ground, the captain is closing in on a rag-tag band of insurgents.

This remarkable movie is alternately beautiful and grotesque, cruel and fantastic. Ofelia's fairyland is not a cute Disney version of make-believe, but a dark and scary place and this movie is definitely not for children. The story, in Spanish with English subtitles, is intense and exciting and held my interest every moment, blending the harsh realities of war with a child's boundless imagination. Several scenes of violence were too hard to watch, but it is nonetheless an unforgettable movie. Highly recommended.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerizing, May 19, 2007
Zoe Collins "The Book Worm" (Conowingo, MD United States) - See all my reviews
Pan's Labyrinth was undoubtedly one of the most captivating movies I have ever seen. I will admit, the depths of human cruelty in this movie were violently disturbing but when you look beyond that, there is a fantastic story being told. I felt as though the story was very well blended with fantasy and real life elements. Honestly, if you give this movie a chance, the subtitles will NOT detract from the story or the gorgeous cinematography that the movie portrays. Do not expect this movie to be a Disney fairy tale or a complete fantasy. There are some harsh real life realities interwoven into the plot. This is definitely not a movie for children or those who like fluffy feel-good films.

I think the level of violence in this film comes from a cultural difference in movie making. I find that American audiences love a lot of movie violence (car chases, explosions, blood splatters, etc.) where as this movie portrays a more real life violence more often seen in real life war situations. Seriously, though, this movie was not as violent as some very popular films I have seen. Saving Private Ryan anyone? This movie did not touch that level of violence.

In my opinion, the reason Del Toro did not concentrate wholly on the fantastical portions of the film is because the fantasy relied so heavily on what was going on in Ofelia's real life. She was so ready to believe the faun when he said she was a princess because she wanted escape. She was alone and afraid and when the faun gave her a chance to leave those fears behind, she took it. It was also easy for her to accept the fantasy because she believed in it already or she wanted to believe in it, exemplified by the type of books that she insistently read. The fantasy and her real life became so intertwined to the point that the viewer couldn't tell anymore whether it was in her head or real. It really does not make a difference which it is, the point is that Ofelia needed escape and this was her medium to do so.

Honestly, give this film a chance. It is worth it.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, May 14, 2007
This film had a strange effect on me -when I saw it the first time i thought it was way to brutal and it depressed me deeply-I could not stop thinking about it and oddly after a couple of days the impression that stayed was one of beauty,depth and hope....I can't really explain why - the characters and actors are extremly good,the story very well directed and the brutality sadly very real so maybe its the mixture of it all that provokes another level of perception.... definitely is worth seeing and unforgetable.
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