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Let Your Eyes Do the Talking
How extraordinary it is to see a film with such imaginative power that it can recapture images seen only in our dreams (or our nightmares). Pan’s Labyrinth is such a film, and its visionary experience puts you on the filmgoer pedestal because you actually experienced it.
This dark storybook for adults could only come from the mind of Director Guillermo Del Toro, who haunted us with The Devil’s Backbone (2001), wowed us with Hellboy (2004), and shocked us with The Shape of Water (2017).
Set in post-Civil War Spain, a young girl named Ofelia (a delightful Ivana Basquero) and her mother, Carmen (Ariadna Gil), move into the home of Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez).
“Home” is too kind a word. It is more a neglected mill in the middle of a dismal forest of doom.
As Vidal leads his team of soldiers against a resistance militia, Ofelia is visited every night by Pan, the mythological goat-god, who believes Ofelia might be the lost princess of the nearby woodsy labyrinth.
To prove she is the princess, Ofelia must complete three tasks that become more grueling and dangerous as she succeeds. Meanwhile, Vidal gradually becomes mad, killing and torturing everyone believed to be the enemy.
When I say a storybook for adults, I am not kidding. Behind the enchantment of the fantasy are two extremely violent scenes. They are not exploitative, however – just desperate pleas for pacifism in Falangist Spain. Although she never carries a gun or even attacks in this film, Ofelia is our hero, Pan is our conscience, and Vidal is the evildoer that must be stopped.
Along with a plot much like the original Star Wars installment, the creatures and settings are equally mind-boggling. With faces just as vile as they are beautiful, we are frozen in a world too different than our own. Watch out for the monster with eyeballs in the palms of his hands or the luminous fairies that guide Ofelia on her way.
Costume design, makeup, cinematography, and music become so vital in this movie that they steal the show away from the plot. As per usual, Del Toro proves that film can be artwork and the screen can be the canvas.