After having waltzed with the decision to watch Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto del fauno) for the longest time, I finally decided to rent the movie. What a terrific choice that turned out to be.
Part reality, part fantasy, PL is set in Spain in the 1940s when the regime of General Franco was asserting itself. It is against this backdrop that a young girl, Ophelia, and her pregnant mother travel from the city to the countryside to join Captain Vidal, who is Ophelia’s step-father and the father of the unborn child. On the way, when the car stops in the woods, Ophelia meets a grasshopper-like insect which follows her to her new home.
When she sights this insect again, she follows it into a maze before the housekeeper, Mercedes, catches up with her and tells her that the place is a labyrinth. Ophelia, who loves reading fairy tales, reads stories to her unborn step-brother. When the insect shows up again, she follows it into the labirynth and meets with a faun, a sinister-looking creature, who gives her three tasks to complete to fulfil a prophecy.
What follows is a young girl’s attempt to fulfil the tasks in fantasy-land, and the reality of living with the cruel Captain and the challenges faced by Ophelia. Writer-director, Guiellermo Del Toro, does a fabulous job of unravelling the story against the backdrop of the rebels fighting the captain’s army. The imagination of Del Toro and his execution of the script are a treat. The suspense is constant and the movie never flags, which as any filmmaker will tell you is a hard thing to do. The movie is sometimes dark and brutal but it is handled tastefully and you can’t help admire the director’s touch.
Ivana Baquero playing Ophelia takes your breath away as the ten-year old caught between the fantasy and reality. Maribel Verdú, who plays Mercedes, is also terrific as the housekeeper who is a spy for the rebels and has a soft corner for Ophelia. Sergi López portrays Captain Vidal as a chilling, cold villian beautifully.
I would’ve loved to understand the Spanish dialogues of Pan’s Labyrinth, but the sub-titles are pretty efffective as well. Guillermo Del Toro deserves a great deal of credit for making such a fantastic movie. I can’t wait to see what he’ll do with The Hobbit. If his previous movies are any indication, we’re in for a heck of a ride.