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Pan's Labyrinth (DVD) (WS)
In a dark time for a young girl, Spain and the entire world, the haunting fantasies within her mind merge into reality, giving birth to a land of fantastical creatures and secret destinies--Pan's Labyrinth . . . El laberinto del fauno. 1944. Rural Spain. As Franco consolidates his brutal hold after years of civil war, lonely and dreamy Ofelia must come to terms with the cruelty around her. Living with her mother and adoptive father--a military officer under the Fascist government who is tasked with ridding last rebels from their area, Ofelia creates a fable, giving life to a secret inner world to help her cope with a world gone wrong. From acclaimed director Guillermo del Toro (Cronos, Mimic) and produced by Alfonso Cuarón, director of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Y tu mamá también.]]>
Theatrical Trailer: Theatrical teaser, Theatrical trailer
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This is a classic war movie that everyone should see. It's been a few days since I watched it, and I can't stop thinking about it—and it's breaking my heart in the most amazing way. I'm not surprised it received a 22 minute standing ovation at its release.
"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...
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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