El Laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth)

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Review by Vives Anunciacion
Inquirer Libre May 4, 2007
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
R 13/ 112 minutes
En Español, with English Subtitles
***** (5 stars)

“If you’re listening, God,
Please don’t make it hard to know if we
should believe the things that we see.”
– Home, The Wiz

Esperar el inesperado. Metaphorically profound yet brutally literal at the same time, Pan’s Labyrinth is ultimately a soul-stirring elegy on the coldness of reality and the comfort of fantasy. Believe what you want to believe in this impossibly heartbreaking adult fairy tale from Hellboy director Guillermo del Toro. Expect the unexpected.

Set in a military outpost in the mountains of 1944 facist Spain under the tyrannical rule of Francisco Franco, a recluse, twelve-year old Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) escapes the horrors of war and her sadistic and brutal stepfather (Capitan Vidal, deftly played by Sergi Lopez) when she discovers a magical world within a stone labyrinth where a faun (Doug Jones) reveals that she is the daughter of the King of the Underworld.

To claim the title of Princess, Ofelia is assigned three magical tasks involving a giant toad and a monstrous pale-skinned man. Ofelia narrowly fails to accomplish all tasks, in part because of her mother Carmen’s (Ariadna Gil) difficult pregnancy and the growing countryside insurgency, participated in by the outpost’s mayordoma Mercedes (Maribel Verdu).

Ofelia succeeds but terribly pays the price for her fantasies while the real world around her lights up in the red flames of revolution.

Complemented by Cinematographer Guillermo Navarro’s metaphorical play on light and darkness to stress the narrative’s clash of truth and non-truth plus Javier Navarrete’s haunting 7-note lullaby, which has been playing in my mp3 player repeatedly for several weeks now.

Pan’s Labyrinth tells two parallel tales of horror and hope clashing within the imaginations of young Ofelia.

The last shot of a single flower opening to full bloom is a poetic symbol on how myths and legends begin.

The ending of Pan’s Labyrinth doesn’t ask its viewers a question, but offers a middleground to those who cannot reconcile whether one, both or neither of the parallel tales are true.

Believe what you want to believe in the stories of Pan’s Labyrinth, it humbly offers a compromise to cynic realists and romantic idealists: either lose yourself in its happy fairytale ending, or accept a sad, cruel, and sometimes violent, real world.
Escapism and cynicism are both facts of life.

Still showing in cinemas this week, Pan’s Labyrith is the real fantastic tale.

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