Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

Guillermo del Toro has the gift of seamlessly putting the real and the otherworldly side by side without the audience blinking. The story here is both beyond belief and it succeeds in helping the audience suspend their disbelief.

Set in Spain during WWII, young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) moves with her mother to live with a new father who is a military commander in charge of suppressing a rebel movement that hides in the surrounding woods. Her mother is pregnant, and it becomes apparent that this second marriage is more for political reasons than any sort of love. Ofelia’s love of reading allows her to explore the surrounding area and hear the story of who she really is: the princess of a world beneath the earth. A fairy leads her to a faun who tells her the tasks she must complete in order to take her place back in the kingdom. These two stories and world are weaved together magically and with visual brilliance.

The harsh and brutal reality of the war is intentionally juxtaposed to Ofelia’s fantasy world, until the very end of the film where the two worlds collide in a heart wrenching confrontation. In an NPR interview, del Toro talked about how the imagination is a way to cope with childhood traumas and the reality of evil in the world, not as a way to escape it but as a way of survival. While a portrait of a child’s experience, this is neither a film for children nor a fantasy film. Instead this film explores the depth of human evil, and the imagination required to recognize the good, to love, and to hope.

–gpv

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