Movie News and Reviews – Pan’s Labyrinth

Laura Clark

One begins to grasp the extraordinary nature of Pan’s Labyrinth within the first five minutes, when Capitán Vidal abruptly kills a young farmer by beating his face in with the butt end of a wine bottle.

Set in rural northern Spain following General Franco’s Nationalist party victory, El Capitán and his new wife and daughter struggle to survive while battling the insurgents who occupy the surrounding woods. Guillermo Del Toro, the man behind the less-than-impressive Hellboy and its sequel, surpasses himself by far in Pan’s Labyrinth. As writer, director and producer, he masterfully weaves political warfare, a desperate, difficult pregnancy; and a child’s escape from this ill-fated existence. The aesthetics in play throughout the movie make it a joy to watch and the soundtrack adds an extra dimension to the film.

Relative newcomer Ivana Baquero plays the lead role with all the gravity and authenticity of a woman twice her age. In the concluding moments, when one reality trumps them all, it is almost too much to see a girl so young portray such a tragic hero.

The violence is enough to make you cringe, but it looks realistic and quite different than typical wartime footage; here again Guillermo has infused an artistic element into a dramatic fantasy genre that had seemingly explored all new technology.

The film is presented in Spanish, but this is an unexpected benefit; it adds to the enchantment of the story where the raspy Pan would otherwise have sounded too much like a glorified Gollum from Lord of the Rings.

This film is no children’s movie; you will not encounter Peter Pan, but you will see a movie that is worth the money and time spent on it. In fact, this may be the first movie in quite a while worth seeing in theaters more than once.